Serengeti Empress will lean on speed, 'her weapon,' this spring

January 28, 2020 01:45pm
Serengeti Empress will lean on speed, 'her weapon,' this spring
Photo: Leah Vasquez

Thirteen starts into Serengeti Empress’ career, trainer Tom Amoss said he’s still learning about the Grade 1-winning filly. Sunday’s Houston Ladies Classic (G3), however, represented another step in determining how to get her back to the winner’s circle older horse.

En route to a runner-up finish, Serengeti Empress established her usual pace-setting position at Sam Houston, clicking off opening fractions in 23.40, 47.31 and 1:12.37. Those splits were fast enough to lead on the day but Amoss was left wondering…what if?

“She’s a unique horse in a sense that her speed is her weapon,” the trainer said. “And as easy as she made the lead she also allowed the field to stay in it by keeping it close and going slow early.

“I don’t think that’s in her best interest. I think her best interest is to make that pace happen to matter what, and that would be different from the ordinary horse.”

Led by Lady Apple, who got through on an open rail, four horses crossed the wire with only 3/4 of a length separating them in the Houston Ladies Classic.

Had Serengeti Empress done more serious running early — such as when she won the Kentucky Oaks after opening in 23.25, 46.65 and 1:11.26 in a longer race — rivals would have had two options. That’s run out of their comfort zones trying to keep up, or let Serengeti Empress build an insurmountable lead as she did in the Oaks.

While the Oaks remains the daughter of Alternation’s most-recent victory, “We still think she’s a top filly,” Amoss said, adding that Oaklawn Park’s series of races for older females is “very attractive” moving forward.

Stakes in Arkansas include the Azeri (G2) and Oaklawn Handicap (G1), which could also be targets for others on the board in the Houston Ladies Classic. Street Band got up for third with Mylady Curlin fourth in a compact but talented field of six.

“You can’t treat her like a traditional horse in a sense that if I slow it down, I’ll have a bunch of finish left,” Amoss said. “On the other hand, we slowed it down and left everyone in the race.

“…She ran good. I was disappointed that we left the rail open for the winner, but I’m very proud of my filly’s effort.”

In addition to the Oaks, Joel Politi’s Serengeti Empress won a pair of stakes at age 2, the Ellis Park debutante and Churchill Downs’ Pocahontas (G2), by flaunting her speed. Last season, she won Fair Grounds’ Rachel Alexandra (G2) before adding placings in the Acorn (G1) and Test (G1) in New York and a third in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita Park.


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