Oaks Winner Faces New Shooters in Acorn

Serengeti Empress | Horsephotos

By Alan Carasso

When Abel Tasman (Quality Road) rallied to win the 2017 GI Acorn S., she became the first winner of the GI Kentucky Oaks to double up in the race since Bird Town (Cape Town) accomplished the feat some 14 years prior. Monomoy Girl (Tapizar) followed suit in last year’s Acorn and Serengeti Empress (Alternation) will look to keep the streak in tact Saturday afternoon at Belmont.

Winner of last year’s GII Pocahontas S. by a Rachel Alexandra-like 19 1/2 lengths, the bay faltered to be seventh in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and she was sent to the Big Easy for a break. Powerful winner of the Grade II race named in honor of the 2009 Horse of the Year in February, Serengeti Empress bled and trailed in as the favorite in the GII Fair Grounds Oaks, casting doubt on her ability to make the Oaks field. But she gave connections all the right signs and backed it up with a pillar-to-post success on the first Friday in May.

That is the good news. Jose Ortiz has taken the unusual decision of jumping off the filly that gave him his first Oaks to stick with Three Chimneys Farm’s Guarana (Ghostzapper). A homebred daughter of Magical World (Distorted Humor) whose second dam Pleasant Home (Plesant Colony) upset the GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Belmont in 2005, Guarana splashed onto the scene–quite literally–romping home to graduate by 14 3/4 eased-down lengths in the slop at Keeneland Apr. 19 to become a no-brainer TDN Rising Star.’ The further female family includes 1993 Acorn and Triple Tiara winner and 1994 Hempstead H. (i.e. Ogden Phipps) winner Sky Beauty (Blushing Groom {Fr}).

The field’s biggest Beyer Speed Figure belongs to California raider Ce Ce (Elusive Quality), who defeated a next-out winner when breaking her maiden (89 BSF) at first asking at Santa Anita Apr. 12 before earning a 97 Beyer when just missing at odds-on in a first-level allowance May 11. Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza has the call on the homebred half-sister to the good 3-year-old colt Papa Clem (Smart Strike).

Serengeti Empress, Ce Ce and GIII Beaumont S. victrix Fancy Dress Party (Munnings) should go a good gallop and could set things up for some longshots from off the speed. Jeltrin (Tapizar) caused a 51-1 upset of champion Jaywalk (Cross Traffic) in the Mar. 2 GII Davona Dale S. over Saturday’s trip, while Bell’s The One (Majesticperfection) came with a rails run to complete the exacta at 23-1 in the GII Eight Belles S. May 3.

 

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