When Tom’s d’Etat last set foot at Saratoga for a competitive battle, he finished fourth in the Woodward (G1) last August and was still winless in graded stakes company.
“We had an awful trip in that race, but he fired his best shot that day,” said trainer Al Stall Jr.
On Saturday, the 7-year-old enters the $750,000 Whitney Stakes (G1) as arguably the best older horse in the country and the one to beat in the 1 1/8-mile test against a select group of four rivals.
Since the Woodward, Tom’s d’Etat has won four straight, three of them graded, including two against rivals he meets in the Whitney. He concluded his 2019 campaign with a 4 1/4-length triumph in the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland, followed by a 3 1/4-length score in the Clark (G1) at Churchill Downs.
A season-opening score in the Oaklawn Mile over Improbable on Apr. 11 was followed in late June by a 4 1/4-length romp in the Stephen Foster (G2) over By My Standards, for which Tom’s d’Etat earned a career-high 112 Brisnet Speed rating.
“I can tell in the couple weeks he’s been here, his hair is great and his eye is just what you want and it seems like he knows just where he is. He’s been here at 3, 4 and 6,” said Stall of Tom’s d’Etat, who is 3-for-4 at Saratoga. “We see no signs of him going the other direction on us, especially from a mental standpoint.”
Code of Honor is 2-for-2 over the Saratoga strip, including a stellar three-length triumph in the Travers (G1) last summer. The Honor Code colt has been restricted to a pair of one-turn races so far this term, winning the Westchester (G3) but falling short by 1 1/2 lengths in the Metropolitan H. (G1) last out.
“Two turns going a mile and an eighth is what he wants to do,” said trainer Shug McGaughey. “I do think that last year, the Dwyer (G3) was one of his better races. But now that he’s gotten older, and gotten stretched out, two turns going a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter is where he’ll run his better races.”
The pace of the Whitney will be provided by the New York-bred longshot Mr. Buff and Improbable, who rebounded from his loss in the Oaklawn Mile to post an impressive victory in the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) by more than three lengths. His Brisnet Speed rating was a career-best 108.
By My Standards’ three-race win streak was snapped in the Stephen Foster, but he isn’t far off Grade 1 standard following early-season wins in the New Orleans Classic (G2) and Oaklawn H. (G2).
The Whitney is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep that will award the winner an automatic bid into the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland in November.