Going into Saturday’s $200,000 Pocahontas (G2) at Churchill Downs, the key question was whether Serengeti Empress could repeat her sensational victory in the August 19 Ellis Park Debutante while stretching out to two turns for the first time. Bettors believed she would, betting her down to 4-5 favoritism, and the Tom Amoss trainee justified that faith with a record-setting performance.
Serengeti Empress turned the first scoring race for the 2019 Kentucky Oaks (G1), and a “Win &You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) also at Churchill, into an utter rout. Speeding straight to the lead from her rail post, she rattled off quick fractions of :23.17 and :46.94. Taylor’s Spirit gave chase, but began to lose ground by the time Serengeti Empress reached the six-furlong mark in 1:12.20, and the rest of the field was toiling.
In contrast, Serengeti Empress was still galloping with gusto swinging for home. Jockey Corey Lanerie had no need to ask her for any more, since her margin was increasing the farther she ran. Eight lengths on top in midstretch, she crossed the wire 19 1/2 lengths in front – a stakes-record margin in the Pocahontas, and the biggest score in any Churchill stakes since Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra’s 20 1/4-length conquest of the 2009 Kentucky Oaks.
Serengeti Empress accordingly opens the new Oaks leaderboard with 10 points. Splashy Kisses, the 7-2 second choice, was the distant runner-up to garner four points. Lightscameraaction (two points) nipped My Wynter Rose (one point) for third.
Now the winner of three of four, Serengeti Empress clocked 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.47 and increased her earnings to $187,870 for owner Joel Politi. She broke her maiden at Indian Grand and suffered her only loss in the Schuylerville (G3) at Saratoga, where she checked in fourth after the rider lost the whip.
Serengeti Empress was a bargain $25,000 Keeneland November weanling who later sold for $70,000 as a September yearling at the same venue. She is from the second crop of Alternation, a Grade 1-winning millionaire by Distorted Humor who sired 2003 Kentucky Derby (G1) star Funny Cide.