By Christina Bossinakis
Serengeti Empress (Alternation) sparkled in a front-running display in the Aug. 8 GI Ballerina S. at Saratoga and will try to make it two straight with a win in Saturday's GI Derby City Distaff S. at Churchill Downs. While the Ballerina's opening fractions of :21.75 and :43.74 would have been enough to incinerate most rivals, they merely served as a stepping stone to victory for the speedy filly as the 2019 Kentucky Oaks heroine finished one length clear of the hard-trying yet second-best Bellafina (Quality Road), who returns to re-oppose last year's GI Kentucky Oaks heroine here. The latter, who was an impressive winner of the GI Santa Anita Oaks at three, failed to find the winner's circle in six subsequent starts, finishing in the money in half of those. Back on top in the six-furlong GIII Desert Stormer S. May 17, Bellafina finished second in the July 4 GII Great Lady M S. at Los Alamitos prior to the Ballerina.
Mia Mischief (Into Mischief) is the horse for the course at Churchill Downs, having hit the board eight of nine starts at the Louisville oval. Winner of the 2019 GI Humana Distaff over course and distance, she added a pair of add a pair of six-furlong stakes scores at that venue later on in the season, including the Nov. 1 Dream Supreme S. Following a pair of victories at Oaklawn earlier this spring, including the Apr. 25 Carousel S., the Stonestreet Stables runner was third in the GIII Winning Colors S. before coming up a half-length short of winner Guarana (Ghostzapper) in the GI Madison S. at Keeneland July 11.
Already a two-time Grade I winner this season, Ce Ce (Elusive Quality) reeled off wins in the Mar. 14 GI Beholder Mile and Oaklawn's GI Apple Blossom H. the following month before finishing third in her two most recent starts in the GII Santa Maria S. and Del Mar's GI Clement L. Hirsch Aug. 2. Accompanied by Victor Espinoza in all prior eight career starts, John Velazquez gets the call in the Distaff.