If the G M B Racing horses perform up to expectations on Saturday and her New Orleans Saints clinch a first round bye in the playoffs with a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Christmas will come a few days early for local icon Gayle Benson.
With the likely Tenacious Stakes favorite Tom’s d’Etat leading the way, the white and light blue halves and gold crown will be will be represented by a handful of runners on Santa Super Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
G M B Racing Manager Greg Bensel hopes that “Tom” and his G M B Racing stablemates have a big day on Saturday.
“He’s obviously got the (Grade II $400,000) New Orleans Handicap on his radar,” Bensel said. “Ironically that could put him up against (graded stakes winner and stablemate) Lone Sailor in a potential showdown. He’s (Tom’s d’Etat) spent most of his career in rehab due to injuries. He’s five years old and we don’t know how much time we have left with him so were taking our best shot.”
A son of Smart Strike, Tom’s d’Etat was highly regarded even as a 3-year-old. So much so, that his connections considered facing him off against eventual Horse of Year Gun Runner in last year’s Grade I Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.
“We were pointing to the Woodward last year against Gun Runner but he ended up getting hurt,” Bensel recalled. “I think where he was at that point last year, he would have at least given Gun Runner a little run for his money. He had come off back-to-back wins and we were real excited about it. The funny thing is that we beat our heads against the wall against Gun Runner with Tom’s Ready and Mo Tom.”
The Tenacious Stakes will be a long overdue stakes debut for Tom’s d’Etat who has won five of his eight career starts, the last three by a combined 18½ lengths.
“There some nice ones in there (Tenacious) that were on the Derby trail so we’ll see where he is,” Bensel said. “(Trainer) Al (Stall, Jr.) has been cautious with him and deliberate with his training. He’s probably on the back end of his career so we’ll see what he does on Saturday.”
In addition to Tom’s d’Etat, G M B Racing will race a trio of well-bred 2-year-olds on the Saturday program including Twelfth Labour (Race 4), Locally Owned (Race 12) and Miltontown (Race 13).
A son of Quality Road out of the stakes winning Lemon Drop Kid broodmare Kitty Wine, Twelfth Labour will be making his third career start and will stretch out to two turns after a pair of starts around a one turn mile at Churchill Downs, the most recent of which was a late closing neck behind B P Rocket. He is trained by Dallas Stewart and owned in partnership with West Point Thoroughbreds and Stone Farm.
“There was going to be only one long juvenile race and we were going to let Twelfth Labor have the first shot. But (Fair Grounds Director of Racing) Jason (Boulet) and the crew over there spilt the race and it turns out that both fields are tremendously tough,” Bensel said. “Al (Stall, Jr.), Dallas (Stewart) and I looked at the long juvenile race and we didn’t want to run against each other. Luckily that morning, the racing staff split the race when Al and called and told me, that was welcome news.”
Twelfth Labour was purchased for $360,000 at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale from Stone Farm’s consignment operation.
Locally Owned will look to overcome a case of seconditis in his maiden special weight start on Saturday. The Al Stall, Jr. trainee was runner-up in all three of his starts. Most recently, he finished five-length behind promising Mark Casse trainee War of Will.
“Second, second, second but he has done it with a lot of energy, desire and fight which is good to see,” Bensel said. “He has a good pedigree and he’s a big dude.”
Locally Owned was a quarter million dollar purchase from last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is by Distorted Humor out of the four-time graded stakes winning Pulpit broodmare Fiftyshadesofhay. She was consigned by Warrendale Sales.
In the penultimate race on Saturday, Miltontown will seek a maiden victory at second asking for G M B racing and Dallas Stewart. A close fifth last out against Sugar Bowl Stakes contender Uncapped, the son of Speightstown was an $85,000 purchase from last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale from the consignment barn of Lanes’ End.
“We like the horse,” Bensel said. “He’s going to go short and there are a lot of first timers in the race so it’s hard to determine what will happen. The goal is to stretch him out to see what he has.”
Miltontown is out of the Forest Camp broodmare Forest Legend whose dam is Grade II winner Silver Comic. He comes from the same family as graded stakes winner Silver Reunion as well as 1998 Louisiana Derby (then a Grade III) winner Comic Strip.
Looking ahead, G M B Racing will start two-time allowance winner Cathedral Reader in Santa Anita’s Grade I La Brea on December 26 and on the same day will debut 2-year-old Tom Management at Fair Grounds.
“Saturday is going to be a great day at Fair Grounds so were excited about all horses,” Bensel said. “Then obviously we got the Steelers game so hopefully we can secure a first round bye. It’s big weekend overall. We’re having a lot of fun with everything.”
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