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HOT SPRINGS, AR – Joel Politi’s Serengeti Empress shot to the lead early and never looked back, going gate to wire in absolutely romping fashion to win Saturday’s $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park.
Breaking from post 5 under Joe Talamo as the 9/5 favorite, Serengeti Empress immediately shot to the front and held an uncontested lead heading into the far turn. Her lack of pace pressure was aided when expected front-runner Awe Emma reared at the start and lost rider Richard Eramia.
Under Talamo’s still frame, Serengeti Empress posted opening fractions of :23.33, :46.49, and 1:11.34 while Street Band and Lady Apple raced 4+ lengths behind. Off the far turn, Serengeti Empress turned on the burners and left the field eating mud.
Crossing 6 1/4 lengths while geared down in the end, the Tom Amoss trainee completed the 1 1/16-mile event over the sloppy (sealed) main track in a final time of 1:44.46.
“She set some legit fractions,” Talamo said. “I was surprised she went in :46 2/5 (for first 1/2-mile). She felt like :47 2/5. She has a tremendous stride. She was very impressive today and I was just fortunate to ride her. She handled the off track very well.”
Mylady Curlin outkicked Saracosa by 3/4 of a length after the two came rallying from the rear. Street Band and Lady Apple faded to fourth and fifth, respectively.
Rahway was a well-beaten eighth to complete the order of finish. Awe Emma was safely corralled and returned to the barn seemingly without incident.
Serengeti Empress’ win was her first since taking last year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) and improved her overall record to 14-6-3-1. The 4-year-old daughter of Alternation, who ended her 2019 campaign with a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), has now earned $1,731,520.
“There was no secret what the plan was going to be today,” Amoss said. “We took it to them early and she set such a blistering pace. It’s the kind of pace that a lot of people would not think she could withstand, or a racehorse could withstand, but she’s a little different.”
Serengeti Empress returned $5.80 to win, $3.60 to place, and $2.80 to show. Mylady Curlin brought back $4 to place and $3 to show, while Saracosa paid $8.80 to show.
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