June 5, 2023

Serengeti Empress faces Bellafina, Covfefe in Test; World of Trouble tops Troy field

Serengeti Empress and jockey Jose Ortiz win the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 3, 2019 (c) Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

The circumstances will be a little different from the last time they met when Serengeti Empress and Bellafina line up in the $500,000 Test (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday.

In their most recent encounter, in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks (G1), Serengeti Empress registered a surprise, wire-to-wire victory at odds of 13-1. Meanwhile, Bellafina made little impact, finishing fifth as the 9-5 favorite.

This time, however, there’s a possibility neither will go favored. Rather, that honor could go to the freakishly fast Covfefe, who seeks to rebound from a loss to the older Grade 1-winning filly Mia Mischief.

Covfefe made headlines breaking a long-standing six-furlong track record at Pimlico winning the Miss Preakness (G3) in May. However, that form did not translate against older rivals in the $120,000 Roxelana at Churchill Downs last month, when she weakened to third behind Grade 1 winner Mia Mischief as the 2-5 favorite.

Serengeti Empress finished a distant second to division leader Guarana in the Acorn (G1) in her lone start since the Oaks.

“She has done very well over the track and the cut back in distance isn’t a concern based on her last performance,” Amoss said. “She was challenged hard early in that race and she was able to sustain that challenge. There is a lot of speed in the race and that’s the way it is, but I’m going to rely on her class and her speed associated with that class, and let her do that job.”

Bellafina, a six-time graded stakes winner in Southern California, didn’t stay the nine furlongs of the Oaks, prompting connections to aim for shorter races with her.

“We made the decision after the Oaks to freshen her up and give her some time off,” trainer Simon Callaghan said. “We didn’t really want to rush back in the Acorn, and just felt it was the right time to give her a break and hopefully comes back fresh and ready to fire in this race.

“We’ve been really happy with her. Her works have gone perfectly.”

The field also includes Victory Ride (G3) winner Royal Charlotte, who enters with a four-for-four record; Davona Dale (G2) heroine Jeltrin, a distant third in the Acorn and Mother Goose (G2); and Trenchtown Cat, second against older rivals in the Princess Rooney (G2) last time.

World of Trouble and jockey Manny Franco win the Jaipur Invitational (G1) Belmont Park on June 8, 2019 (c) EquiSport Photos/Jessie Holmes

Leading turf sprinter World of Trouble breaks from the rail in the $200,000 Troy (G3) going 5 1/2 furlongs. The versatile Jason Servis trainee enters on a five-race win streak, which includes the Carter H. (G1) on dirt and the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) and Jaipur (G1) on grass.

“He’s a phenomenal talent and has just continued to improve,” Servis said. “He came out of the Jaipur great and although he’s making his first start since June, it doesn’t take him that long to get race ready especially going five furlongs.

“He has speed but doesn’t necessarily have to be in front, so we’ll take a look at the field and take it from there.”

The two gray veterans of the Christophe Clement barn, Disco Partner and Pure Sensation, are the primary challengers. Disco Partner won the Troy in 2016 and placed third in the race last year, and Pure Sensation has won over the turf at the Spa before, too. However, both have tended to run best elsewhere, Disco Partner excelling at Belmont Park and Pure Sensation at Parx.