“The Pressbox’s” Exclusive Q&A Series With Breeders’ Cup Horses: Today’s Interview With Serengeti’s Empress

(Serengeti Empress tours the Churchill Downs track in the morning / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

By Holly M. Smith

She has already won over the Churchill Downs surface, trains here everyday and is taking her owner on an exciting ride.  Plus, find out how she got such a cool name — that might make you hum an 80’s song!

What race/s are your targeting for the 2018 Breeder’s Cup?

Tito’s Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies

Who are your parents?

My sire is Alternation, an up-and-coming, second-crop sire who stands at Pin Oak Stud in Versailles, KY, and my Dam is Havisham.  She is an unraced Bernardini mare. I hear she is now in Korea. Can you let her know that I am doing well?

Can you tell us a little about your owners?

My owner is Joel Politi.  He is an Orthopedic Surgeon in Columbus, Ohio. He specializes in Hip and Knee replacement surgery, but always makes time for his family (wife Julie and four daughters), and has loved Thoroughbred racing since he was a young boy going to the track with his dad.

Who is your trainer?

My trainer is Tom Amoss, who is a great horseman and an even better person.  He is a family man (wife Colleen, daughters Hayley and Ashley). He’s won over 3,500 races, and his horses have won almost $100 million in purses! He has trained multiple Grade 1 winners! I am so lucky to have landed here with him.

It’s race day, how do you get your game face on?

I am actually pretty chill. My best pre-race strategy is to take a nice, long nap. Once I wake up, I am re-charged and ready to go!

Favorite snack?

My favorite snack is having a champagne toast in the winner’s circle! (Ok, and I like peppermints too!)

Favorite racetrack?

My favorite track is my home track, Churchill Downs

What has been your most memorable racing moment so far?  

Winning the Pocahontas Stakes in front of my home crowd was a really thrilling experience

Favorite sports team (college or pro)?

My favorite college team to cheer for is the Women’s Swim and Dive Team from The University of Virginia (Go Hoos!)

If you could have dinner with any other horse alive or deceased, who would it be and why?

Rachel Alexandra! The way she dominated her races was unbelievable!

What are you looking forward to most about Breeder’s Cup at Churchill Downs?

The crowds, the pageantry, the excitement, and, of course, The Tito’s Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies!

Anything else you would like to say to your fans?

My name comes from the song by Toto, “Africa,” which was sung so well, and so often by Rachel, Leah, Annie, and Nina Politi. My owner was inspired by it (Kilimanjaro rises like an Empress above the Serengeti). Pardon me now, I have to go hum a few bars.


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

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