If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. At least that’s what they used to say. For one particular Thoroughbred, that old adage paid off in a big way on November 29.

Tom’s d’Etat is a veteran runner that has enjoyed success during his career. In fact, this son of Smart Strike won six of seven starts between August of 2016 and December of 2018. Unfortunately none of those wins came against graded stakes company. The victories at Saratoga, Churchill Downs and the Fair Grounds in Louisiana told trainer Al Stall Jr. it was time to step up into the graded stakes races with his talented six-year old.

The trips to the winner’s circle during his four and five year old seasons allowed the veteran conditioner the opportunity to see talent. Deciding to jump with both feet, the first start of 2019 came in January in grade 1 company in the Pegasus World Cup. Running strong early, Tom faded to a ninth place finish due to a slight injury against some of the best competition in the Classic distance division.. Allowed some rest and recuperation time, the horse named for the late owner of the New Orleans Saints (Tom Benson) came back in the Alysheba on Kentucky Oaks day and ran a good second to a very talented McKinzie. Remaining at Churchill, Tom again ran in graded stakes company but finished two lengths back of Seeking the Soul in the third spot on June 15.

More than holding his own in those three starts, Tom was sent to Saratoga where he collected a win in the non-graded Alydar Stakes. Still searching for a graded stakes win, Stall saw his courageous charge come up just short again in the grade 1 Woodward the last day of August. Each of his 2019 starts had been against top company and his efforts had been commendable, but moral victories do not a big bankroll make at the track or in the breeding shed.

Regrouping again, Tom was sent to Keeneland and that is where he came marching in with a grade 2 win for GMB Racing. Finding his best stride in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes, an emphatic 4¼ length win gave everyone a glimpse of what can happen when things go right for this grandson of Giant’s Causeway.

The time was right for another grade 1 run and the Clark at Churchill was the spot. A very competitive 12 horse field showed up, but so did perhaps the best Tom’s d’Etat we have seen. Breaking alertly under jockey Joel Roasrio, the pace stalking Tom sliced through horses at the top of the stretch and moved easily to the lead. Dispatching a game Mr. Freeze at the eighth pole, Stall’s runner cruised to an easy 3 ¼ length win. Covering the mile and an eighth distance in 1:48.84, that elusive grade 1 was finally his.

“There are a lot of grade 1 horses in this game that don’t make grade 1 races,” says Stall. “To have a horse like this is extremely special for our entire barn.”

Getting over the hump was good in many ways. The $349,680 first place purse pushed his career earnings over the million-dollar mark ($1,236,572). Also it gives the Tom team options as far as the huge money races that begin the 2020 season (Pegasus, Saudi Cup, Dubai World Cup).

“This win gives us a lot of options,” says Stall who reported Tom came back from the race in great shape. “We’re going to let him tell us what to do next.”