You won't find Phil Serpe near the top of many lists of leading trainers if you sort by earnings or number of wins. His stable of 20 doesn't lend itself to big numbers.
But percentages are another thing. During the recent Saratoga meet, Serpe had only 16 starters but finished with a record of 6-1-1. That's a 38 percent win rate – highest among trainers with more than 15 starters. (Philip Bauer was close, with a 46 percent win rate from 13 starters.)
Serpe told Horse Racing Nation this week that he is in a rebuilding mode. His stable was affected by the death of owner Carl Lizza and the subsequent dispersal of his horses.
"Every year we had 25 or 30 horses for them. So we created a big void in our stable," he said.
“And then we were fortunate enough to get horses for Chester and Mary Broman. Mr. Broman, the year before last, decided it was time for him to cut back. He's a little bit older. And he just had decided that that's what he wanted to do. So then we lost another 12. So that's kind of where we're at. We're rebuilding things.”
Serpe, driving on Monday after overseeing the arrival of horses at Belmont Park from Saratoga, provided HRN with an update on some of his top horses.
Leave No Trace. Owned by WellSpring Stables, the 2-year-old Outwork filly won her debut by 2 3/4 lengths at Saratoga and then scored in the Spinaway (G1), beating the favorite by 1 1/2 lengths at 14-1 odds. Next up will be the Oct. 2 Frizette (G1) at the Belmont at the Big A meet.
“Obviously, we didn't know she was going to win or even run in a race like that,” Serpe said. “But before we ever shipped from Belmont up to Saratoga, in July, she started touting herself. Her works were getting pretty impressive for an unraced 2-year-old filly. And she just continued like that. We felt very strong about her first race, and we're not really a barn that winds them way up for their first race. So she was pretty impressive there.
"And then we – like everybody else that was in the Spinaway – you had five fillies that broke their maiden and five fillies that went on and a couple won races after that. And so nobody really knew how good anybody really was. But I thought she was pretty impressive.”
Serpe thinks Leave No Trace is ready for the one-turn mile in the Frizette. “This filly looks the type of a horse that'll go long and she really has the pedigree to go long. So we're actually fine because it's progressive – again, seven-eighths to a mile – and then hopefully, hopefully, we get to Keeneland and go a mile and a sixteenth if we get that far.”
Itsallcomintogetha. This 2-year-old New York-bred by Weekend Hideaway is owned by Hilly Fields Stable. He debuted at Saratoga on Aug. 10 but was bumped badly at the start and “finished with good energy for the show,” as the chart reads.
“The horse all the way on the outside broke and made a left-hand turn, pushed everybody into everybody," Serpe said. "And he took the worst of it and stumbled and recovered.”
Itsallcomintogetha will try again in a maiden special weight at Aqueduct on Friday. “We tried to get him back in at Saratoga and he was excluded because the race had overfilled.”
Serpe trained his sire, who is a son of Speightstown. “There's not much you have to say in regards to Speightstown because his babies do everything and he's a sire of sires. To me, they do everything, he's an amazing sire so hopefully he'll pass that on to Weekend Hideaway. Weekend Hideaway was a hell of a horse. … And then also Itsallcomingtogetha's dam (Ladywell Court), we also trained her, so we have the whole family.”
Security Code. Also owned by WellSpring, the 2-year-old Frosted filly finished second in his first start, five lengths behind Bill Parcells’ Maple Leaf Mel at Saratoga.
“Security Code came back and was impressive in her next start and won drawing away. She’s running in the Joseph Gimma on Friday at Belmont at the Big A. And she's also a Wellspring stables horse, so they have some nice young horses this year. They still have some 2-year-olds we haven't raced yet. The two fillies, Security Code and Leave No Trace, are the best of the bunch, for sure.”
Bank on Anna. Another WellSpring filly, this 3-year-old daughter of Central Banker has a record of 6: 4-0-1 this year, including a 2 3/4-length win last out in the Union Avenue stakes at Saratoga.
“She's a New York-bred filly, so our focus on her is the Iroquois on Oct. 30. As far as if she's going to run before then, I don't know only because there doesn't seem to be a lot of places for her right now," Serpe said. "And our ultimate goal with her was maybe win another race or maybe two races this year. So she already has four wins. So we'd love to try to have her ready for the Iroquois and possibly something after that. We're not in a hurry to get her in a race before then; she runs good fresh. … She's an extremely, extremely determined racehorse, really has the grit in her. She was super impressive in a race where she – I don't recall if she stumbled, whatever – she got left at the gate at Aqueduct. And she made up a tremendous amount of ground. That's how she wants her race. She's really determined.”
Safe Conduct. The winner of last year’s Queen’s Plate, he’s a son of Bodemeister owned by WellSpring. He was fifth last out in the Lure Stakes at Saratoga and before that was second in the Monmouth Stakes (G3). “We just freshened him up – he's another horse that runs good fresh – and he's going to be headed to the Knickerbocker at Aqueduct.”
The Grade 3 race at 1 1/8 miles on turf will run on Oct. 9.”