Heroes of Churchill Downs: Serengeti Empress

Mar 27, 2023 Sara Dacus TwinSpires.com

Serengeti Empress, one of the biggest stars in racing over the past five years, is the mother of a yearling, her first foal in her new career as a broodmare. In her first career, the dark bay won the Kentucky Oaks (G1), reached the Breeders’ Cup all three seasons she raced, and earned almost $2.2 million.

She was purchased for $70,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale by trainer Tom Amoss for owner Joel Politi, an orthopedic surgeon in Columbus, Ohio. Politi’s father was a first-generation immigrant and physician who put a 12-horse thoroughbred barn in their backyard. He raced horses on a smaller scale, and father and son enjoyed going to the races together at Thistledown and Mountaineer. Joel Politi, too, was racing on a smaller scale when he purchased Serengeti Empress.

From the start, Amoss recognized that Serengeti Empress was extremely intelligent. She was also known for her kind and laid-back personality.

“She went through all of her drills without blinking an eye,” he said. “I mean, every time we challenged her, she was up to it.”

She won her first career start—a maiden special weight at Indiana Grand (now Horseshoe Indianapolis)—handily by 5 1/2 lengths. Next, she ran a disappointing fourth in the Schulyerville S. (G3) at Saratoga, a race where Amoss said everything went wrong, including jockey Javier Castellano losing his whip.

She more than bounced back in the black type Ellis Park Debutante Stakes, crossing the wire 13 1/2 lengths ahead of the competition and giving Politi his first stakes win as an owner.

She chased this win with another runaway victory, this time in the Pocahontas S. (G2), beating the field by an astounding 19 1/2 lengths. This victory was a record for the Pocahontas and tghe largest winning margin in a stakes race at Churchill since Rachel Alexandra won the 2009 Kentucky Oaks by 20 1/4 lengths. That victory earned Serengeti Empress points towards a starting position in the Kentucky Oaks and a place in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) starting gate, where she finished seventh.

On the road to the Oaks after the Breeders’ Cup, she took the Rachel Alexandra S. (G2) at Fair Grounds by 4 1/2 lengths. In the Fair Grounds Oaks (G3), her final prep race, she gave her connections a major scare as she experienced bleeding and was vanned off at the conclusion of the race. But a bullet workout at Churchill Downs showed that this was an isolated incident.

In the Kentucky Oaks, Serengeti Empress was a bit of a long shot, going off at 13-1. But she went right to the front, shook clear of her competition, and dug in to ward off the bid of Liora. She held on to win in gate-to-wire fashion by 1 3/4 lengths, showing plenty of heart.

In all, Serengeti Empress claimed six stakes victories, including the Ballerina S. (G1) at Saratoga, and placed in six other graded stakes.

She retired at the end of her 2020 campaign, which concluded with a second-place finish to record-setting and 2020 Champion Female Sprinter Gamine in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).

When she retired, Politi made the decision not to sell her despite the windfall he could have received. She is boarded for Politi at Taylor Made Farm in Nicholasville, Ky., where she delivered her first foal, a colt by leading sire Into Mischief.

“Her first foal is a really cool colt,” said Mark Taylor, President of Taylor Made Sales Agency. “He’s got a ton of personality. Looks like he is going to be a really nice horse. It’s early to tell, but it’s a nice first foal.”

Politi used the profits he made from Serengeti Empress to more than double his operation to about 25 horses. He has had success with stakes winners Li’l Tootsie, Littlestitious, and Kneesnhips.

  • Ticket Info

    Sign up for race updates and more


Thank You To Our Sponsors


Missed something? Catch up on past Churchill Downs news