News and STORIES
Serengeti Empress Set To Kick-Off 4-Year-Old Campaign
Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Thursday January 23, 2020
Joel Politi's American classic-winning filly Serengeti Empress will kick off her 4-year-old campaign on Jan. 26. She will headline the field in the $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3) during the Houston Racing Festival at Sam Houston Race Park.
Serengeti Empress, the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner, is one of the six fillies and mares that are set to run in Sunday's 1 1/16-mile dirt event. She is the daughter of Alternation and trained by Tom Amoss.
Coming Off Third-Place Finish
After taking her Oaks victory, she performed impressively in four more starts but could not win any. She took second in the Acorn Stakes (G1) and Longines Test Stakes (G1), and she will come into the Ladies Classic after a third-place finish in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff.
"There were a few things for consideration," Amoss said about the decision to point the filly toward the race. "It just seemed like a logical starting point for 2020. The purse is very good, and the race has been an excellent first stakes of the year for several very nice fillies."
After her last performance in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park, Serengeti Empress began to train. She breezed three four-furlong drills at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
"She worked a half-mile on Saturday morning to sharpen her," said Amoss. "She's doing well so we're going to ship Saturday morning and the game plan will be what it always is, we are going to send away from the gate and try to control things from the front end."
Amoss also took a shot at the Ladies Classic in 2015 with Kiss to Remember.
Along with Serengeti Empress in the starting gate from post 1 will be jockey Flavien Prat, shipped in from California. Amoss said that the filly is ready to kick off her new campaign.
"I have a lot of experience with her, and I've been on her a lot," said Amoss. "She's showing me all the signs that she's ready to start back."
Millionaire Street Band will run alongside Serengeti Empress in the race. The daughter of Istan is owned by Ray Francis, Cindy and Larry Jones, Medallion Racing, and MyHorseRace Stable. She turned in her final work Jan. 21 at Fair Grounds, working a bullet five furlongs in :59 2/5.
Street Band is a multiple graded stakes winner, and she earned top-level honors last year when she scored the Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx Racing. Her sophomore season ended with an eighth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Regular jockey Sophie Doyle will be on top from post 6.
"It looks like the toughest one yet," said trainer Larry Jones of Sunday's field.
Jones has scored two other editions of the Ladies Classic; the inaugural running in 2013 with Joyful Victory and in 2015 with Cassatt.
"This race at Sam Houston Race Park has been a nice fit for us, and to win it three times would be great for this cowboy," said Jones.
Steve Asmussen's Lady Apple
The Steve Asmussen barn will be represented by Lady Apple, the winner of the Remington Park Oaks (G3) last September at Remington Park. The Curlin filly is owned and campaigned by Phoenix Thoroughbred III and KatieRich Stables, and she finished third to Serengeti Empress in the Kentucky Oaks.
The filly has also scored stakes victories in the Fantasy Stakes (G3) and Iowa Oaks (G3).
Lady Apple was shipped to Sam Houston in December, and she worked two five-furlong bullets over the dirt surface with a time of 1:00 2/5 and 1:00 flat.
"She's a quality filly," said Asmussen. "It was very unfortunate that she had to miss the Zia Oaks (as shipping restrictions were enacted due to reported cases of equine herpesvirus EHV-1 at Remington Park). We sent her directly to Sam Houston at the end of the Remington meet and had to schedule extended works to prepare for the Ladies Classic."
Last year's renewal of the Ladies Classic was taken by Asmussen's multiple graded stakes winner Midnight Bisou.
"I have nothing but respect for the competition this year," said Asmussen. "The Houston Ladies Classic was the first stakes for the successful year we had with Midnight Bisou. We hope that Lady Apple moves forward as well from her 2020 debut."
Lady Apple will break from post 4 with Ricardo Santana Jr.