Why Joel Politi is keeping Serengeti Empress

Why Joel Politi is keeping Serengeti Empress
Photo: Chris Rahayel/NYRA

Owner Joel Politi is so thankful for 2019 Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress that he is unwilling to part with her, no matter how much of a financial windfall she might have brought as a broodmare prospect.

Politi, an orthopedic surgeon in Columbus, Ohio, made the uncommon decision to retain his multiple graded-stakes winner as a broodmare after her second-place finish to record-setting Gamine in this year's Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

At a time when sportsmen appear to be increasingly hard to find, Politi’s actions show he became involved in the racing industry for all the right reasons.

He said of his willingness to move forward with Serengeti Empress: “If you look at it as business, it’s a good decision to sell. If you look at it as your passion, it would be heartbreaking to sell.”

Despite the pandemic, the demand for quality remains high. When Fasig-Tipton held its “Night of the Stars” after the Breeders’ Cup, two-time Distaff winner Monomoy Girl lit up the board when she was sold for $9.5 million to Spendthrift Farm, which intends to continue to race her. She was one of 22 horses hammered down for at least $1 million.

Politi, 51, understands what might have been if he had traveled that path with Serengeti Empress.

“I’m certainly not in the class of the people who are the big spenders, so that money is real money,” he said. “But the reason people are willing to pay that money is the value she has as a broodmare, so if I decided to keep or race any of her foals, they will have a value, too. So it’s not as if I’m turning away all that money with no recourse.

“More importantly, I just couldn’t see her shipped off to a foreign land. It would feel too incomplete to me.”

Serengeti Empress was a $70,000 purchase at Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale because of the sharp eye of trainer Tom Amoss. She won seven of 19 starts with five second-place finishes to earn $2,175,653. The dark bay daughter of Alternation reached the Breeders’ Cup all three seasons, finishing seventh in the Juvenile Fillies, third in the Distaff and second in a Filly & Mare Sprint in which Gamine turned into a freak.

“One thing Tom and I are most proud of is she ran three seasons and she retires sound and healthy,” Politi said.

Serengeti Empress is based at Taylor Made Farm and will be bred to Spendthrift Farm’s Into Mischief, the hottest stallion of them all.

“Spendthrift Farm approached us and asked if we’d be interested,” Politi said, “My answer was an emphatic ‘Yes!’ ”

He might be willing to double down on that. “He’s the premier sire right now, so I would imagine in the course of her breeding she would go back to him more than once. But time will tell. We will see. She crosses really well with a lot of great stallions.”

According to Politi, Into Mischief already was on his short list of desirable stallions as well as Not This Time and Medaglia d’Oro.

Another aspect that underscores Politi’s sporting nature is that he used Serengeti Empress' success to more than double his operation to about 25 horses. “I basically took all of her profits and put it back in,” he said.

Serengeti Empress joins a handful of broodmares he owns. Although her fortunes will continue to hold the key to financial success, Politi does not view it in those terms.

“If she winds up being a pretty good broodmare, then this is a fairy tale story and I ride off into the sunset,” Politi said.

And if she fails to pass on her brilliant speed and great determination to her foals?

“If she doesn’t become a great broodmare, we get to take care of her and see her for the next 20 years and, to me, that is a happy ending,” said Politi, understanding that some experiences are priceless.

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