Last year’s GI Longines Kentucky Oaks heroine Serengeti Empress (Alternation) punched her ticket to the GI Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint with an ultra-game, front-running performance while turning back in distance in Saturday’s GI Ballerina S. at the Spa.
The dark bay wasn’t off to the sharpest of beginnings from her rail draw, but was quarter-horsed to the front by Luis Saez to hold a narrow advantage over the pride of Mexico Letruska (Super Saver) through an opening quarter in a blazing :21.75.
Getting scrubbed on and appearing to be in deep water with the others swarming in–including favored California invader Bellafina (Quality Road)–as they hit the quarter pole, Serengeti Empress wasn’t going out without a fight.
Longshot Victim of Love (Speightstown) began to shoot up the inside while Bellafina took dead aim to the outside of Serengeti Empress as they straightened for home.
Last term’s GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff third-place finisher kept on finding while drifting some down the stretch, however, and refused to lose while stopping the timer in a sparkling 1:21.63.
“That was very valiant,” winning trainer Tom Amoss said. “She didn’t break on time. She was a step slow, but when you go seven-eighths and you have that opening on the track before you hit the main track, you get an opportunity to catch up, and she did. She was able to regain her position, but I really thought that opening half-mile in [:43.74] was going to be her doing in. I thought we learned a lot about her today. What we learned is that this is a real good middle-distance filly.”
A too-good-to-lose second behind brilliant two-time champion Covfefe (Into Mischief) in last year’s GI Longines Test S. at the Spa, the Joel Politi colorbearer ran away and hid from them in a sloppy renewal of Oaklawn’s GII Azeri S. Mar. 14, but disappointed in her next two trips to the post.
She entered the Ballerina following double-digit defeats in both Oaklawn’s GI Apple Blossom H. Apr. 18 and the GII Fleur de Lis S. at Churchill last time June 27.
The Ballerina was her first start around one turn since last year’s Test.
“Speed is her game, and she used it today,” Amoss said. “She was able to hold off a very good filly from California. I look forward to staying at the seven-eighths distance, maybe getting one more start in her before the Breeders’ Cup.”
Serengeti Empress is the top runner for four-time graded winner Alternation, whose other graded victor from eight black-type winners is 2018 GIII Super Derby winner Limation. Alternation’s four crops of racing age have averaged only 50 foals each year. The homebred stands at Pin Oak Stud as the fourth generation of his female family to be associated with the Central Kentucky nursery owned by Josephine Abercrombie. Other sires in his immediate family to stand at Pin Oak include Canadian Horse of the Year Peaks and Valleys (Mt. Livermore), as well as Alternation’s current barnmate Broken Vow (Unbridled). Serengeti Empress herself is one of only three reported foals out of the unraced Bernardini mare Havisham, who hails from an Argentinean family although she was foaled in the U.S. Havisham was sold at the 2016 Keeneland November sale when Serengeti Empress was a weanling who brought $25,000 at the same sale. Carrying a full-sister to the Ballerina winner, Havisham brought $12,000 and was subsequently sent to Korea, where her last reported foal is a juvenile filly by Tiz Wonderful.
BALLERINA S.-GI, $300,000, Saratoga, 8-8, 3yo/up, f/m, 7f, 1:21.63, ft.
1–SERENGETI EMPRESS, 122, f, 4, by Alternation
1st Dam: Havisham, by Bernardini
2nd Dam: Love Dancing (Arg), by Salt Lake
3rd Dam: Le Midi (Arg), by Fitzcarraldo (Arg)
($25,000 Wlg ’16 KEENOV; $70,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP). O-Joel Politi; B-Tri Eques Bloodstock LLC (KY); T-Thomas M Amoss; J-Luis Saez. $165,000. Lifetime Record: 17-7-3-1, $1,907,653. Werk Nick Rating: A+++ *Triple Plus* Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Bellafina, 121, f, 4, by Quality Road
1st Dam: Akron Moon, by Malibu Moon
2nd Dam: Akronism, by Not For Love
3rd Dam: Jerry Bomb, by Explosive Bid
($220,000 RNA Ylg ’17 KEESEP; $800,000 2yo ’18 FTFMAR). O-Kaleem Shah Inc, Mrs John Magnier, Michael B Tabor & Derrick Smith; B-JSM Equine LLC (KY); T-Simon Callaghan. $60,000.
3–Victim of Love, 120, f, 4, by Speightstown
1st Dam: Spacy Tracy, by Awesome Again
2nd Dam: Tracy, by Theatrical (Ire)
3rd Dam: Daring Bidder, by Bold Bidder
($160,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP). O-Tommy Town Thoroughbreds LLC; B-Daniel J Burke (KY); T-Todd M Beattie. $36,000.
Margins: 1, 1HF, HF. Odds: 3.15, 2.70, 10.90.
Also Ran: Come Dancing, Letruska, Pink Sands, Cookie Dough.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.