Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress will shorten up to seven furlongs when attempting her second Grade 1 victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test for 3-year-old fillies over the Saratoga Race Course main track.
Joel Politi's dark bay daughter of Alternation won the Kentucky Oaks gate-to-wire on an uncontested lead and ran home to victory by 1 ¾ lengths before a runner-up effort behind Guarana in the Grade 1 Acorn on June 8 at Belmont Park, where she registered a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure.
Since arriving at Saratoga, Serengeti Empress has recorded two works over the main track, the most recent a half-mile bullet in 47.60 seconds.
Saturday will mark a cut back in distance for Serengeti Empress, who has not raced at the Test's distance since a romping 13 1/2-length win in the Ellis Park Debutante last August.
Trainer Tom Amoss said the way Serengeti Empress has trained over the track, as well as her last out runner-up performance in the Acorn, givea him confidence that she can put up a winning performance.
“She has done very well over the track and the cut back in distance isn't a concern based on her last performance,” Amoss said. “She was challenged hard early in that race and she was able to sustain that challenge. There is a lot of speed in the race and that's the way it is, but I'm going to rely on her class and her speed associated with that class, and let her do that job. She knows how to do her job. We developed her, bought her as a yearling and have been a part of her life from the moment she came into the barn. This would be very special if it were to happen.”
A win in the Test would give Amoss his first Grade 1 victory at Saratoga since Heritage of Gold won the 2000 Go for Wand.
Two-time Saratoga leading rider Jose Ortiz will pilot Serengeti Empress from the rail, while attempting his third straight win in the Test after guiding Seperationofpowers and American Gal to victory in the past two editions.
Making her first start since finishing fifth in the Kentucky Oaks as the favorite is Bellafina for owner Kaleem Shah and trainer Simon Callaghan, who teamed up to win the 2017 Test with American Gal.
The chestnut daughter of Quality Road is the only entrant with multiple Grade 1 wins on her resume. As a 2-year-old, she notched victories in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante and Grade 1 Chandelier at Santa Anita. After getting her sophomore campaign started with a pair of Grade 2 victories at Santa Anita, she secured a win in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks before subsequently running fifth in the Kentucky Oaks.
“We made the decision after the Oaks to freshen her up and give her some time off,” Callaghan said. “We didn't really want to rush back in the Acorn, and just felt it was the right time to give her a break and hopefully comes back fresh and ready to fire in this race.”
Bellafina has trained at Del Mar, where her most recent work was a half-mile breeze in 48.60 over a fast main track.
“We've been really happy with her,” Callaghan said. “Her works have gone perfectly. She's always been a good work filly in the morning and that's continued to be the case. So far, everything has gone as well as to be expected.”
Breaking from post 2, Bellafina will be reunited with regular pilot Flavien Prat, who seeks his first Grade 1 victory at the Spa.
L N J Foxwoods' Covfefe will attempt to rebound after a narrow loss against older fillies and mares in the Roxelana when breaking from post 3.
The Brad Cox-trained daughter of Into Mischief was an impressive winner of the Grade 3 Miss Preakness two starts back, registering a 107 Beyer, the second-highest figure recorded this year by a 3-year-old.
Covfefe displayed impressive winning ways since her first career start, a 9 ¼ length win at Churchill Downs last September.
Covfefe will be ridden by Joel Rosario, who goes for his first win in the Test.
First Row Partners' Royal Charlotte, 4-for-4, will attempt to keep her undefeated record afloat and will leave from post 5.
The gray or roan daughter of second-crop sire Cairo Prince will look to provide her sire with his first Grade 1 winner after stakes victories in the Hystericalady on May 27 at Monmouth Park and the Grade 3 Victory Ride on July 5 at Belmont Park.
Royal Charlotte also will attempt to give trainer Chad Brown a second straight win in the Test after saddling Separationofpowers to a victory last year. She will be ridden by two-time Saratoga leading rider Javier Castellano.
Completing the field are Trenchtown Cat [post 4, Irad Ortiz, Jr.], Please Flatter Me [post 6, John Velazquez] and Jeltrin [post 7, Luis Saez].
First post on Saturday's card is 1 p.m. Eastern with the Test carded for Race 8 at 5:06 p.m.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2019 Paulick Report.