Serengeti Empress has dispelled questions about her health and ability with a signature performance in the biggest race of her career.
The filly led all the way to win the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (1800m) by 1-3/4 lengths over Liora on Friday (Saturday AEST) at Churchill Downs.
The start featured a scary moment when Positive Spirit fell and threw jockey Manny Franco after clipping heels as the 14-horse field squeezed together from the barriers.
Both horse and rider were able to get up and walk off the track.
Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Serengeti Empress started from gate 13 and took the lead by the first turn and kept it up despite Liora’s late attempt to close the gap.
The winner rebounded from a seventh in the Fair Grounds Oaks during which she bled to win the 145th running of North America’s premier race for three-year-old fillies.
Serengeti Empress earned her second graded win in three starts this year and third overall in eight career races, and gave trainer Tom Amoss his first Kentucky Oaks victory.
“I have had all the sacrifices all trainers have,” Amoss said.
“I got to taste the sweet, sweet drink of the Kentucky Oaks and I want more. This is awesome.”
Sixth-placed Jaywalk was later disqualified for causing the incident at the start after stewards determined she took Positive Spirit’s path and forced her onto heels.
Positive Spirit’s spill and Serengeti Empress’ recovery for an easy victory comes soon after the industry enacted a raft of medication and safety rules changes following the deaths of 23 horses over three months at California’s Santa Anita Park.
After her bleeding attack, Serengeti Empress was eventually cleared medically to run in the Oaks after several work-outs, and ran in the Oaks on the medication Lasix.