March 22, 2019

Serengeti Empress rebounds with Rachel Alexandra romp

Serengeti Empress wires the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds under jockey James Graham on February 16, 2019 (c) Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir

Joel Politi’s Serengeti Empress ran her rivals off their feet in Saturday’s $198,000 Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds, vaulting to the top of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) leaderboard with a total of 60 points.

The Tom Amoss trainee had stamped herself an exciting prospect last summer. After a 13 1/2-length conquest of the August 19 Ellis Park Debutante, Serengeti Empress captured the first Oaks scoring race, the September 15 Pocahontas (G2) at Churchill Downs, by a stakes-record 19 1/2 lengths. But her progress was interrupted last time in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), where she tired to seventh behind champion Jaywalk.

Serengeti Empress regained top form in the Rachel Alexandra, the first race of the “Kentucky Oaks Championship Series” worth a hefty 50 points to the winner. Bet down to 9-5 favoritism, the daughter of Alternation went straight to the front, and under a well-judged ride by James Graham, dictated fractions of :24.02, :47.81, and 1:12.45. Serengeti Empress widened her advantage to as many as six lengths in midstretch before coasting home by 4 1/2 lengths. She clocked 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.74, just off Risen Star (G2) winner War of Will’s 1:44.59.

Longshots filled the rest of the superfecta. The 23-1 Liora took second, good for 20 points and upping her total to 31. Third-placer Eres Tu, a 25-1 shot who closed from last to earn 10 points, now has 14. Street Band received 5 points for finishing fourth at odds of 17-1. Underperforming in the latter half of the field were Needs Supervision, Oxy Lady, Molto Bella, and 5-2 second choice Positive Spirit. Chasing Yesterday did not make the trip for Bob Baffert, and Bell’s the One was also scratched.

Serengeti Empress sports a mark of 6-4-0-0, $327,870. The Indiana Grand maiden winner made her stakes debut in the Schuylerville (G3) at Saratoga, winding up fourth in her other defeat besides the Breeders’ Cup.

Bred by Tri Eques Bloodstock in Kentucky, Serengeti Empress was a $25,000 Keeneland November weanling who brought $70,000 at the same venue the following September. She is the first foal from the Bernardini mare Havisham from an Argentine family.