By Emily Shields
Jockey Jose Ortiz won the Kentucky Oaks for the first time when Serengeti Empress ($28.00) carried him to victory in the $1,250,000 race on May 3. The daughter of Alternation went to the lead early from the 13thpost (of 14 runners), and carried the field around the track. She shook off a late challenge from Liora in the lane to win by 1 ¾ lengths in 1:50.17 for the 1 1/8 mile distance.
Upon pulling up, the first thing Ortiz asked was the condition of fellow rider Manny Franco, who went down in a spill when Positive Spirit clipped heels with Jaywalk and fell. Both horse and rider are fine and walked off under their own power. Last, in the post-race press conference, Ortiz said, “She’s such a fast filly. She took me to the front and she fought the entire way around there. I’m so thankful to (trainer) Tom (Amoss) for allowing me to ride this filly. This is an incredible win.”
Amoss was winning his first Kentucky Oaks. Serengeti Empress, who is owned by Joel Politi, now has five wins in eight starts and earnings just over $1 million. Earlier this year she won the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) at the Fair Grounds.
Second was Liora, Laddy Apple was third. Favored Bellafina finished fifth, beaten eight lengths for the win. The field, in order, was: Serengeti Empress, Liora, Lady Apple, Champagne Anyone, Bellafina, Jaywalk (who was disqualified and placed last), Street Band, Chocolate Kisses, Motion Emotion, Jeltrin, Out for a Spin, Flor de La Mar, Restless Rider, and the non-runner Positive Spirit.
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