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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Serengeti Empress Wins Kentucky Oaks


On the Lead All the Way

Serengeti Empress grabbed the advantage out of the gate and repelled a stretch bid from Liora to win the 145th running of the Longines Kentucky Oaks by 1 3/4 length.

Trained by Tom Amoss for Joel Politi and ridden by Jose Ortiz, Serengeti Empress covered the mile and one-eighth on a fast track in 1:50.17. It is the first victory in the race for both Amoss and Ortiz.

Ortiz, who will ride Tacitus in the Kentucky Derby, has a chance to become the eighth rider to sweep the Oaks and Derby in the same year. Calvin Borel was the most recent in 2009 with Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird.

Winner of the Pocahontas at the track last September in front-running fashion, Serengeti Empress went right to the front with Motion Emotion in closest pursuit. Serengeti Empress clicked off fractions of 23.25, 46.65 and 1:11.26 and maintained a daylight advantage into the stretch. Only Liora, sent off at 38-1, threatened the winner in the final run through the lane, closing to within a length at the eighth pole but getting no closer.

The victory was worth $705,250 to the owner of Serengeti Empress, increasing overall earnings to $1,037,390 with a record of 8-5-0-0. Three of the victories have come in graded stakes, with the Oaks being her first Grade I.

Serengeti Empress is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Alternation out of the Bernardini mare Havisham and was bought for $70,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Sent off at 13-1 odds, Serengeti Empress returned $28.00, $14.80 and $9.60. Liora, ridden by Channing Hill, returned $32.60 and $17.00. Lady Apple finishing another 5 1/2 lengths back in third under Ricardo Santana Jr. and paid $7.00 to show.

Champagne Anyone finished fourth, followed by favored Bellafina, Jaywalk, Street Band, Chocolate Kisses, Motion Emotion, Jeltrin, Out for a Spin, Flor de La Mar and Restless Rider. Positive Spirit did not finish after being pinched back at the start, clipping heels and falling. Manny Franco and the filly escpaed injury.

Jaywalk was disqualified from sixth and placed 13th for interfering with Positive Spirit out of the gate.

 A crowd of 105,719 was announced by Churchill Downs, a decrease of seven percent compared to last year, which had more favorable weather conditions.

Wagering reached record totals, with all-sources on the full Kentucky Oaks Day race card totaled $60.2 million, an eight percent increase over the previous wagering record total of $55.8 million in 2018.  All-sources wagering on the Kentucky Oaks race rose 10 percent to $19.4 million from the previous Oaks race record total of $17.5 million in 2018.


 Tom Amoss, trainer of Serengeti Empress (1st) – “How about that! I've never won a race this big. I've won a lot of races, but not one like this. I've heard it said that when it happens, it's just a different experience. Today, for me, it was just a rush of emotions. I thought about my mom and dad who are 93 and 94. They're at home watching. I know they saw this today. I can't wait to speak to them. My extended family. I have five brothers and their families. My wife and kids are here. Colleen, my wife, Ashley my oldest daughter and Hailey my youngest daughter. I think, as a team, us four have seen quite a bit as a trainer has. They put up with a lot. I thought about the people along the way.”

Jose Ortiz, rider of Serengeti Empress (1st) – “She’s such a fast filly. She took me to the front and she fought the entire way around there. I’m so thankful to Tom for allowing me to ride this filly. This is an incredible win.”

Wayne Catalano, trainer of Liora (2nd) – “We had a clear shot at her and I thought I was the winner. I was getting a little excited. You know what, this filly was training great. She looks great and everybody did a great job. Channing did a really good job today. They let him get in behind and settle and I told him, maybe we’ll come and pick up the pieces and everything he asked her to do, she did. She finished up strong. We just got outrun.”

Channing HIll, rider of Liora (2nd) – “Man, that was just heartbreaking. She ran so good. I thought we had it. That was an amazing race. Wayne had her so ready to run and we almost got there.”

Steve Asmussen, trainer of Lady Apple (3rd) – “She ran hard. I’m very proud of her. Between her Fantasy win and her third in the Oaks, she’s proved she’s in the upper echelon of 3-year-old fillies. I still think she has some developing to do physically. She has a great future.”

 Ricardo Santana Jr., rider of Lady Apple (3rd) – “She ran a super race. I thought it may have been a little quick back but she’s a very talented filly.”

Ian Wilkes, trainer of Champagne Anyone (4th) – “She ran a good race, I’m very proud of her. She was the only filly to close from way back. There was something of a speed bias in the track today. That’s the way it is sometime. The winner was too good.”

Chris Landeros, rider of Champagne Anyone (4th) – “I had to check very hard right as we passed the wire. (Street Band) came out on us and we lost stride for a bit. When I got her settled, she got into a nice rhythm but was a bit far back. She ran a super race, though. She’s a very nice filly and I’m so appreciative to the owners and  Ian for giving me the opportunity to ride this horse.”

Simon Callaghan, trainer of Bellafina (5th) – “I think that it was the distance that did her in today. I think she wants to run in one-turn races. We’ll give her a break now and refocus on one-turn races. We may look at the Test next."

Flavien Prat, rider of Bellafina (5th) – “She broke a little slow but she always does. In California, with a five-horse field, you are not that far back after that kind of break. The break was not the issue. I thought I was in a good spot, but when it was time to fire, she just didn’t.”

Tyler Servis, assistant trainer of Jaywalk (6th) – “She got stepped on a little bit coming out of the gate and pulled a little bit of her quarter. I'm sure that compromised her race a little bit. You can't take anything away from the leader, but in hindsight if we let her run away from there a little bit more and be right up there next to Serengeti Empress, maybe there'd be a different story. But at the end of the day, when it came down to running, she didn't do any running."

Javier Castellano, rider of Jaywalk (6th) – “She broke good out of the gate and then was in a good spot on the first turn. Unfortunately, she didn’t fire for some reason. She had clear running but when I asked her for run at the three-eighths pole, she had no response.”

Larry Jones, trainer of Street Band (7th) – “"I don't know. The biggest thing we had, if I have to fault anything is that she just still would not relax the way we would like her to. I would have liked to have seen her waste less energy in the post parade. The Fair Grounds horses did extremely well, so I was tickled to death that the Fair Grounds Oaks was carrying its weight. Those two had shown an affinity for Churchill Downs and that's important. You always hope your horse likes Churchill, but maybe some better than others. We will figure out more two or three races down the road. She seems like she's a bounce and bounce back kind of horse; every other race is really good. I can't go home crying. Everything was OK. We just didn't get the run we would have liked."

Sophie Doyle, rider of Street Band (7th) – “This day was absolutely incredible. I’m so appreciative to Larry and the owners for giving me this opportunity. Hopefully this is the first of many.”

Mark Casse, trainer of Chocolate Kisses (8th) – “He had a good trip. He said she was traveling good. We had no excuse. She had a beautiful trip.”

Julien Leparoux, rider of Chocolate Kisses (8th) – “We really didn’t have any excuses.”

Tom Van Berg, trainer of Motion Emotion (9th) – “We thought she’d rate, but when Mike took a hold of her she threw her head and went. We may have been better off if we just let her go. He was riding her from the five-sixteenths and it just wasn’t there today. The track was probably heavier than she liked. Now we’ll just have to go back to the drawing board and make another plan.”

Mike Smith, rider of Motion Emotion (9th) – “She ran OK. She got tired of chasing the filly that won. She broke extremely well and the game plan was to take her back. Maybe if I just left her alone, I think she would have run better. I was not going to beat the winner though.”

Alexis Delgado, trainer of Jeltrin (10th) – “It wasn't a good break from the gate for my filly. She wasn't ready for it to open. She is a good gate horse and usually gets good position."

Luis Saez, rider of Jeltrin (10th) – “The track is playing pretty favorable to horses up front. We weren’t able to make up any ground.”

Dallas Stewart, trainer of Out for a Spin (11th) – "He had her in a good spot. She just didn't fire. She came back healthy. We will take a look at her."

Irad Ortiz Jr., rider of Out for a Spin (11th) – “She ran good. She was in a good spot but she didn’t give me too much.”

Bob Baffert, trainer of Flor de La Mar (12th) – “She got shuffled back at the start and never responded.”

Joel Rosario, rider of Flor de La Mar (12th) – “On the first turn, she got a lot of kick back in her face and she was not happy with that. After that, she went the other way.”

Kenny McPeek, trainer of Restless Rider (13th) – Did not wish to comment

 Brian Hernandez Jr., rider of Restless Rider (13th) – “She just didn’t fire today.”

Rodolphe Brisset, trainer of Positive Spirit (DNF) – “Manny’s OK, the horse is OK, that’s the important thing. She’s back at the barn; they caught her real quick. We will come back another day.”

 Manny Franco, rider of Positive Spirit (DNF) – “I clipped heels out of the gate. I’m OK.”


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