Notes & Quotes From Churchill Downs’ Magnificent Saturday Stakes Events / “Wow Performance” by Serengeti Empress

(Serengeti Empress romps — as in ROMPS — in the G@ Pocahontas Stakes / Photo Courtesy of Churchill Downs)

Notes & Quotes from the 4 Major Stakes Events held at Churchill Downs on Saturday:

G2 Pocahontas Stakes:

Corey Lanerie, jockey of SERENGETI EMPRESS (winner): “When you have a horse like this, it’s easy to be the passenger. It’s a credit to Tom and his team because this filly has done everything right. When I came back and saw the fractions and how quick we went up front I really couldn’t believe it. That’s when you know you’re sitting on a good horse – when they can travel as quickly as they do without you realizing it.”

Tom Amoss, trainer of SERENGETI EMPRESS (winner): “We are very excited about this filly, and for obvious reasons. We know we have a nice filly and it’s great that the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) is in our backyard. She’s such a pro with how she handles things in training. We’ll just let her be her until the Breeders’ Cup and I think we’ll be just fine.”

Joel Politi, owner of SERENGETI EMPRESS (winner): “I’ve been coming to the races since I was 5-years-old and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s incredible. We’re going to ride it as far as we can. I have to give Tom and his team all the credit – this race was just simply mind boggling.”

Doug O’Neill, jockey of SPLASHY KISSES (runner-up): “She ran dynamite at Del Mar so I thought we’d give her a try in this spot. We just ran into an unbelievably gifted filly. I’m proud of how our horse handled everything today.”

Robby Albarado, jockey of LIGHTSCAMERAACTION (third): “There was no catching the winner. That was unbelievable.”


G3 Iroquois Stakes:

Brian Hernandez Jr., jockey of CAIRO CAT (winner): “He did everything we asked him. We warmed up really good in the post parade. This was my first time I was on him and I thought to myself how smooth he was going. He traveled well the whole way around. He certainly didn’t travel like he was a 2-year-old. It’s easy to put in those type of rides with a horse that has that much confidence to put himself in spots like that.”

Greg Geier, assistant trainer of CAIRO CAT (winner): “This is a really nice colt. Kenny told me after he broke his maiden to try the Iroquois and here we are. He worked really well last week. We’ll see how he comes out of things but it’s nice the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is right here in our backyard.”

Ricardo Santana Jr., jockey of TIGHT TEN (runner-up): “My horse ran well going around two turns for the first time. I thought we were going to get there.”

Florent Geroux, jockey of POLE SETTER (third): “He’s a really nice horse. I think he will have a great future down the road.”

Brad Cox, trainer of POLE SETTER (third): “We were pretty wide around there but he ran well all things considered, I think he’s going to be alright.”

(Cairo Cat wins the G3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs / Photo Courtesy of Churchill Downs)
G3 Locust Grove Stakes:
Julien Leparoux, jockey of BLUE PRIZE (ARG) (winner): “This was the first time I’ve been on this horse in the afternoon but she was relaxed and moving very easily the entire time. I breezed her about a month ago at Keeneland. She’s a very classy horse.”

Ignacio Correas IV, trainer of BLUE PRIZE (ARG) (winner): “She’s not used to running up close to the pace as she did today. There really wasn’t that much pace in the race but we know one thing is for sure – she loves this track. She’s done so well in all of her starts here and it’s great the Breeders’ Cup is here. We’re going and we’re excited.”

Calvin Borel, jockey of CHAMPAGNE PROBLEMS (runner-up): “She tried very hard. We were so close – we almost got there. She’s really started to get better and better each start. Ian has done a great job with her.”

Brodie Wilkes, assistant trainer of CHAMPAGNE PROBLEMS (runner-up): “What a great race. You can’t ask for a better stretch battle in horse racing than that. We’re very proud of her. She ran great.”

Brendan Walsh, trainer of MANNERLY (third): “Well, we got some graded black type in her pedigree. She ran a good effort.”

(Blue Prize wins a ding-dong battle with Champagne Problems in the Locust Grove / Photo Courtesy of Churchill Downs)
Open Mind Stakes:
Ricardo Santana Jr., jockey of VERTICAL OAK (winner): “I thought there would be a lot of speed in this race today. So, Steve and I talked and said to break from the gate and see what happens. I had all the confidence in the world in my filly that she would be okay coming from off the pace.”

Steve Asmussen, trainer of VERTICAL OAK (winner): “She really showed some maturity today. We’ve tried to get along with her all along but she’s always been a bit headstrong. It’s very nice to see her be able to rate behind horses as she did today.”

Gabriel Saez, jockey of ASTROLLINTHEPARK (runner-up): “She ran a nice race. It was disappointing not to get the win but she tried hard.”

(Vertical Oak edges Astrollinthepark in Open Mind Stakes / Photo Courtesy of Churchill Downs)

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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