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Serengeti Empress wins 145th Longines Kentucky Oaks before large crowd at Churchill Downs

By Mark Hansel
KyForward managing editor

LOUISVILLE, KY — Joel Politi’s Serengeti Empress grabbed the advantage out of the gate and repelled a stretch bid from Liora by 1 3⁄4 lengths to win the 145th running of the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) for 3-year-old fillies before a crowd of 105,719 at Churchill Downs.

Jockey Jose Ortiz aboard Serengeti Empress prepares to high-five trainer Tom Amoss (salmon jacket) after winning the Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs Saturday (photos by Mark Hansel).

Trained by Tom Amoss and ridden by Jose Ortiz, Serengeti Empress covered the mile and one-eighth on a fast track in 1:50.17. It is the first victory in the race for Amoss and Ortiz.

“How about that. I’ve never won a race this big – I’ve won a lot of races, but not one like this,” Amoss said. “I’ve heard it said that when it happens, it’s just a different experience. Today, for me, it was just a rush of emotions.”

Ortiz, who will ride Tacitus in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, has a chance to become the eighth rider to sweep the Oaks and Derby in the same year with Calvin Borel being the most recent in 2009 with Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird.

“She’s such a fast filly. She took me to the front and she fought the entire way around there,” Ortiz said. “I’m so thankful to Tom (Amoss) for allowing me to ride this filly. This is an incredible win.”

Winner of the Pocahontas (GII) at Churchill Downs in September in front-running fashion, Serengeti Empress went right to the front with Motion Emotion in closest pursuit. Serengeti Empress clicked off fractions of :23.25, :46.65 and 1:11.26 and maintained a daylight advantage into the stretch.

Only Liora, sent off at 38-1, threatened the winner in the final run through the lane, closing to within a length at the eighth pole but getting no closer.

“Man, that was just heartbreaking. She ran so good,” said jockey Channing Hill, who rode Liora. “I thought we had it. That was an amazing race. Wayne (Catalano) had her so ready to run and we almost got there.”

The victory was worth $705,250 and increased earnings for Serenghetti Empress to $1,037,390 with a record of 8-5-0-0. Three of the victories have come in graded stakes with the Oaks being her first Grade I.

Serengeti Empress is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Alternation out of the Bernardini mare Havisham.

Serengeti Empress returned $28, $14.80 and $9.60. Lora returned $32.60 and $17 with Lady Apple finishing another 5 1⁄2 lengths back in third under Ricardo Santana Jr. and paying $7 to show.

She’s a Julie captures La Troienne

The connections of She’s a Julie celebrate in the winner’s circle after the 4yo filly captured the Grade 1 La Troienne at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day Friday.

Whispering Oaks Farm, Team Hanley, Tim and Anna Cambron, Bradley Thoroughbreds and Madaket Stables’ She’s a Julie eased past Secret Spice in deep stretch to post a half-length victory in the 34th running of the La Troienne (GI) Presented by Inside Access from Chase for fillies and mares.

Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., She’s a Julie covered the 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track in 1:43.58.

Asmussen said he felt this was the right spot for She’s a Julie.

“I got extremely nervous with all the rain this morning, with a sloppy track,” Asmussen said. “It seemed like her sloppy track run last season caused the dip. But she’s a Grade I-winning mare and deservedly so. I got concerned going into the second turn, it seemed that she had to wait for traffic a bit, but she showed her heart.”

Awe Emma and Secret Spice dueled through early fractions of :24.01 and :47.92 as She’s a Julie tracked in third. Entering the stretch, Secret Spice put away Awe Emma but was quickly challenged by She’s a Julie.

The two raced as a team through the lane with She’s a Julie inching clear in the final yards.

“I had plenty of horse at the three-eighths (and) I had a little patience for a hole to open,” Santana said. “A hole opened really well and when I asked her she gave me a really nice run. We felt like there was plenty of speed today.”

The victory was worth $297,600 to the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Elusive Quality out of the Dubai Millennium (GB) mare Kydd Gloves. With her first Grade I victory and fourth graded-stakes score overall, She’s a Julie boosted her earnings to $878,130 with a record of 13-6-2-1.

She’s a Julie returned $12, $6 and $3.80. Secret Spice, ridden by Geovanni Franco, paid $6.20 and $3.60 with favored Blue Prize (ARG) finishing another 3 1⁄2 lengths back in third and paying $2.80 to show under Joe Bravo.

Other Oaks Day stakes action

*Klein Racing’s Break Even shot to the front out of the gate and never was threatened in romping to a 5 1⁄2-length victory over Bell’s the One in the 64th running of the $250,000 Eight Belles (GII) Presented by Derby City Gaming for 3-year-old fillies, the first of six graded stakes on Kentucky Oaks Day.

Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Break Even covered the seven furlongs on a muddy track in 1:22.13. For Cox, it was his second victory in the race having scored with Benner Island in 2017.

It was Bridgmohan’s 700th-career Churchill Downs victory and second in the Eight Belles having won with Four Gifts in 2009.

In winning her first graded stake, Break Even quickly opened a daylight advantage and led the field of nine through fractions of :22.08 and :44.14. No one came close to the Klein homebred through the stretch.

The victory was worth $148,800 and increased her earnings to $287,400 with her fourth consecutive triumph. Break Even is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Klein’s stallion Country Day out of the Saint Ballado mare Exotic Wager.

Sent off as the favorite, Break Even returned $6.40, $4.40 and $3.40. Bell’s the One, ridden by Corey Lanerie, returned $16.60 and $8.40 and finished 1 1⁄2 lengths in front of Queen of Beas, who paid $4.20 to show under Jose Ortiz.

*Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman’s McKinzie lived up to his 3-5 favoritism by cruising to a 4 3⁄4-length victory in the 16th running of the $400,000 Alysheba (GII) Presented by Sentient Jet for 4-year-olds and up.

Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, McKinzie covered the 1 1/16 miles on the main track rated as “good” in 1:41.10, just .06 off a stakes and track record.

The victory was the second in the race for Baffert who took the 2011 running with First Dude.

McKinzie and Tom’s d’Etat alternated on the lead through fractions of :23.81 and :47.71. On the far turn, McKinzie dropped back along the rail as Bourbon Resolution challenged Tom’s d’Etat for the lead.

Approaching the head of the stretch, Smith moved McKinzie off the rail and immediately pounced on Tom’s d’Etat and drew off for the victory.

The victory was worth $240,560 and improved McKinzie’s earnings to $1,483,560 with a record of 10-6-3-0.

McKinzie is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Street Sense out of the Petionville mare Runway Model.
McKinzie returned $3.40, $2.60 and $2.10.

*Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Bethlehem Stables’ World of Trouble dominated six overmatched foes by cruising to a 3 3⁄4-length victory in the 25th running of the $250,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GII) Presented by MassMutual for 3-year-olds and up.

Trained by Jason Servis and ridden by Manny Franco, World of Trouble covered the 5 1⁄2 furlongs on a firm Matt Winn Turf Course in 1:03.97. The winner’s share of $151,900 made World of Trouble a millionaire with career earnings of $1,043,300.

The margin of victory was the largest in the history of the race.

World of Trouble shot out to the lead out of the gate and led the field through fractions of :23.07 and :46.08 while maintaining a daylight advantage. Turning for home, World of Trouble encountered no challenges as he improved his record to 12-8-2-1.

Second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GI) here last fall, World of Trouble returned $2.60, $2.40 and $2.20.

*Ashbrook Farm and BBN Racing’s Concrete Rose roared past 1-5 favorite Newspaperofrecord (IRE) nearing the sixteenth pole and drew off to a 3 3/4-length victory in the 35th running of the $250,000 Edgewood (GIII) Presented by Forcht Bank for 3-year-old fillies.

Trained by Rusty Arnold and ridden by Julien Leparoux, Concerete Rose covered the 1 1/16 miles on a Matt Winn Turf Course labeled as “good” in 1:43.34.

The victory was the third in the race for Arnold who had previously won with Darien Miss in 1988 and Everhope in 1996.

Leparoux previously had won the race in 2010 with Dynazaper.

Newspaperofrecord, who handed Concrete Rose her lone defeat in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (GI), raced out to an unopposed lead while producing fractions of :23.53, :47.87 and 1:12.68.
At the top of the stretch, Newspaperofrecord was still clear and maintained a 2 1⁄2-length lead at the eighth pole but Leparoux had Concrete Rose in high gear and quickly zoomed past.

The victory was worth $151,900 and boosted Concrete Rose’s bankroll to $418,600 with a record of 5-4-0-0. Concrete Rose is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Twirling Candy out of the Powerscourt (GB) mare Solerina.

Concrete Rose returned $13.80, $3.40 and $2.80.

NKyTribune staff and Churchill Downs Communications

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