LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Serengeti Empress overcame an outside post and held off a late closing Liora to win the $1.25 million Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in front of a crowd of 105,719 at Churchill Downs.
The Alternation filly overcame the No. 13 post and the challenge through the lane from the Wayne Catalano-trained filly by 1 3/4-lengths to capture the $705,520 first place purse.
She broke alertly and went right to the lead setting quick early fractions of 23.25 and 46.65 through the first half-mile. The gate-to-wire victory over the 1 1/8-mile trek was timed at 1:50.17.
Trainer Tom Amoss, 57, rider Jose Ortiz, and owner Joel Politi all won their first Oaks with the victory.
“I’ve never won a race this big in my life, and I’ve been training since 1987,” said Amoss. “She’s a great athlete and I’m so glad to have her,” he said.
Amoss was former Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson’s horse trainer when he owned thoroughbreds.
Serengeti Empress, went off at odds of 13-1 and returned $28 to her backers for the win, $14.80 to place and $9.60 to show. Liora went off at 38-1 and paid $32.60 to place and $17 to show. Lady Apple finished third and paid $7 to show.
A spill at the start of the race occurred when Positive Spirit clipped heels unseating jockey Manny Franco when Jaywalk veered in. Both horse and jockey walked off under their own power. Jaywalk was disqualified and placed last by the stewards.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.