By Katie Ritz
Shipping in from the Tom Amoss barn at Churchill Downs, Serengeti Empress will become barnmates with several other high-profile maiden mares, including Larry Best's recent $1.95 million Keeneland November purchase Concrete Rose (Twirling Candy).
“It's just special,” said Frank Taylor, the Vice President of Boarding Operations for Taylor Made. “When you get these Grade I winners come to the farm, it's what we thrive on. We've had some great ones here, but we've now raised close to 110 Grade I winners, and she's one of them. So whenever they get to come back home, it's special.”
Serengeti Empress was bred by Tri Eques Bloodstock, a group made up of agent Jacob West, Mike Hardig and Val Henson. Henson, Taylor shared, is the Director of Maintenance and Special Projects at Taylor Made Farm and Serengeti Empress was the first mating he was a part of.
“Unfortunately, I talked him into selling her because I thought the bills she would bring in would be too high to keep her,” Taylor admitted. “But he's gotten a few checks along the way. That makes it even more special. Our team takes great pride in raising horses like this. And to have another Oaks winner here is special.”
The daughter of Alternation was a $25,000 weanling-turned-$70,000 yearling pinhook.
“She was a very good foal when she was born here, a great individual,” Taylor said. “She was a standout. She sold pretty well for her pedigree, but every time out she just exceeded expectations.”
A 5½-length winner first time out, Serengeti Empress was a dual stakes winner by the end of her juvenile season. At three, she took the GII Rachel Alexandra S. before giving trainer Tom Amoss his first GI Kentucky Oaks victory. Also as a sophomore, she ran second in two Grade I races in the Acorn S. and Test S. and then wrapped up the season with a third-place effort in the GI Breeders' Cup Distaff.
This year, the fleet-footed bay added wins in the GII Azeri S. and the GI Ballerina S. to her resume before finishing out her racing career with a runner-up effort behind Gamine (Into Mischief) in the GI Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.
The over-$2.1 million dollar earner is the first graded stakes winner for owner Joel Politi, an orthopedic surgeon from Columbus, Ohio. Upon her retirement, Politi opted to retain the mare instead of offering her at this fall's breeding stock sales.
“She's become part of his family,” Taylor said of Politi's relationship with the talented filly. “Joel and his daughter and wife are all very excited to be part of her broodmare career. Joel is a super guy, and it's going to be exciting to get that Into Mischief baby and see what happens.”
Of the stallion choice, Taylor added, “Basically you're breeding the best to the best. I guess there's no better choice to go with. You know, she got beat by Gamine in her last start so that just makes it more important to breed to Into Mischief. He's a stallion that's in his own league.”