LNJ Foxwoods' Covfefe had to dig deep to hold off Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress in Saturday's Grade 1 Test Stakes, battling that foe all the way to the wire to win by about a half-length. The 3-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, ridden by Joel Rosario for trainer Brad Cox, covered seven furlongs over Saratoga's fast main track in 1:21.26. Covfefe was sent off as the 3-1 second choice in the field of seven sophomore fillies; 2-1 favorite Bellafina finished third.
“Her last two works at Churchill were phenomenal,” Cox said. “I knew when we turned for home, we were going to get as good a Covfefe as we could get at this point of the year. I knew when she turned for home, she wasn't going to give in today. If she was ever going to get seven-eighths it was going to be today. She responded well and Joel [Rosario] gave her an excellent trip. To get a Grade 1 with her is huge. It was a super effort.”
Bellafina jumped a bit slowly out of the gate and was outrun through the first quarter mile while the other six fillies in the field all seemed to want the lead. Jose Ortiz was the most determined to have that advantage on Serengeti Empress, while Rosario settled Covfefe a length off of her through fractions of :22.19 and :44.28. Flavien Prat and Bellafina rushed up the inside rail to be fourth around the far turn.
Straightening into the stretch, Serengeti Empress and Covfefe were on even terms. It looked as though Covfefe would blow by her rival, but Serengeti Empress was very game and pushed the eventual winner all the way to the wire.
“This is one of those races similar to the [Grade 1] Acorn [June 8),” said Serengeti Empress' trainer Tom Amoss. “We don't hang our heads at all. Our horse ran such a fine race. It was the kind of race that the fans were hoping for and for myself personally – I wish it had gone the other way – what a great stretch duel. We got beat by a wonderful performance by our opponent Covfefe. Just as importantly, I look at the last sixteenth of a mile this race and how my filly kept on fighting and I could not be more proud of her. There will be other days for us, but don't take anything away from Serengeti Empress. She ran great.”
It wasn't until the final stride that Covfefe was assured victory by a half-length, as Serengeti Empress settled for second. Bellafina could do no better than third after her mid-race move, and Trenchtown Cat finished fourth.
“She was there for me the whole time,” Rosario said of Covfefe. “She galloped better and better going forward and that was a tremendous race. I know turning for home, I had the 1 [Serengeti Empress] on the inside and at one point she came back a little and was there all the time. It turned out to be a good race at the end.”
Bred in Kentucky by Alexander-Groves Thoroughbreds, Covfefe was a $250,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September sale. She won at first asking and finished fourth in the G1 Frizette in her second start, then won her first two starts of the 2019 season including the G3 Miss Preakness Stakes. Covfefe ran into tough company in the Roxelana Overnight Stakes at Churchill last out, finishing third behind G1 winner Mia Mischief, but she now has her own G1 win with the Test victory. Overall, the filly's record stands at four wins and a third from six starts with earnings of $500,000.
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