Serengeti Empress Scores Breathtaking Victory in Pocahontas Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 16th, 2018

Perhaps it’s too early in the season to declare any two-year-old filly to be a superstar in the making. Perhaps it would be better to reserve judgment and let a few more major races unfold before we crown the division champion.

But my goodness, what kind of a performance did we witness from Serengeti Empress in Saturday’s $200,000 Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs? Sure, you can question the caliber of competition she defeated. Yes, her final time wasn’t all that fast. But maybe none of that matters, because she won by 19 ½ lengths without ever being seriously asked to run!

The 8.5-furlong race was essentially over as soon as the starting gates opened. Serengeti Empress, bounding out quickly under jockey Corey Lanerie, sprinted to the front and established a one-length advantage heading into the first turn. The fractions she set—:23.17 and :46.94—were fast enough to spread out her ten rivals over nearly a dozen lengths, and as the race went on, it become readily apparent that no one had the speed nor stamina to keep up with Serengeti Empress’ testing pace.

Thus, as the field moved around the far turn, Serengeti Empress casually extended her lead to two lengths, then three, then five as she turned for home under a light hand ride. The California shipper Splashy Kisses produced a mild run to finish best of the rest, but at no point did she threaten Serengeti Empress, who powered down the homestretch with authority, extending her lead with every stride to dominate her opposition while seemingly never getting out of second gear.
Trained by Tom Amoss, the daughter of Alternation stopped the clock in 1:45.47. Her clocking was a bit slower than the time of 1:45.35 posted by two-year-old colts in the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) one race prior (and it translated to a Beyer speed figure of just 78), but the fact that Serengeti Empress was never really asked for run suggests that she might have gone faster if necessary.

In any case, Serengeti Empress has earned a “Win and You’re In” berth to the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Churchill Downs while also earning 10 qualifications points for the 2019 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) over this same track. Granted, it’s still seven weeks until the Breeders’ Cup (and 7 ½ months until the Kentucky Oaks), but at this early junction, I think Serengeti Empress’ breathtaking performance has earned her the status as favorite for both races.