Serengeti Empress Winning the Kentucky Oaks
Oaklawn Park News
Oaklawn Park will run three major stakes races March 14 and Fair Grounds-based trainer Tom Amoss is scheduled to be represented in at least two, with unbeaten No Parole pointing for the $1 million Rebel (G2) for 3-year-olds, and 2019 Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress targeting the $350,000 Azeri (G2) for older fillies and mares. Both races are 1 1/16 miles.
“It’ll be a big day for Oaklawn, for sure,” Amoss said Wednesday morning. “Those are some really good races. It looks like the fields are coming together really well.”
No Parole, a Louisiana-bred son of Grade 1 winner Violence, will be making his first start in open company and outside Louisiana in the Rebel, Oaklawn’s third of four Kentucky Derby points races. No Parole has won his three races by a combined 34 lengths, including a 6 ½-length score in the $100,000 Premier Night Prince Stakes Feb. 8 at Delta Downs in his last start. The 1-mile Premier Night Prince marked the two-turn debut for No Parole, who has led at every point of call in his brief career.
Amoss said he and co-owner Maggi Moss opted for the Rebel after No Parole worked a half-mile in :49.40 Monday morning at Fair Grounds, where he made his first two career starts.“Maggi and I spoke right after he won the stake at Delta Downs, which, admittedly, was against Louisiana-breds and only going a mile in distance,” Amoss said. “But it was a two-turn race and we felt like he deserved a chance to run in one of the Derby preps. The race at Oaklawn is attractive because of the timing of it, compared to when he ran last, as well as the distance. When we breezed him this Monday and I spoke to Maggi afterward, after a little discussion, we just thought the Rebel was the right spot.”
Heavily favored in each start, No Parole broke his maiden by 14 ¼ lengths Dec. 15 and cleared his first allowance condition by 13 ¼ lengths Jan. 11. Moss, a longtime Amoss client, purchased No Parole for $75,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. No Parole is out of Plus One, 10th in the $60,000 Spring Fever Stakes for older female sprinters in 2013 at Oaklawn.
“He’s been a lot of fun to work with,” Amoss said. “Look, I’ve been down the road of having horses you think are Derby potential in February. I’ve learned after all these years it’s never a good idea to get your hopes up. So, we’ll just see what he does!”
The Rebel, the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11, will offer 85 points to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Locally based horses pointing for the Rebel include Silver Prospector and Three Technique for trainers Steve Asmussen and Jeremiah Englehart, respectively.
Silver Prospector rebounded from a fourth-place finish in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 24 to win the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17. Three Technique skipped the Southwest after running second in the Smarty Jones.
Grade 1 winner Basin, another Asmussen trainee, is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the Rebel, the colt’s owner, Jackpot Farm, said in a text message Monday morning. Basin won the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 2 at Saratoga in his last start. The Liam’s Map colt recorded a 5-furlong bullet workout (:59.20) Tuesday morning at Fair Grounds.
Stablemates Wells Bayou and Answer In, second and third, respectively, in the Southwest, are under consideration for the Rebel, trainer Brad Cox said; along with Feb. 17 maiden special weights graduate Background for trainer Mike Puhich.
Early bird nominations to the Southwest, Rebel and Arkansas Derby closed Feb. 6. Nominations to the Rebel close March 5.
In addition to the Rebel and Azeri, the $350,000 Essex Handicap for older horses at 1 1/16 miles is March 14.
Serengeti Empress won the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1), the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies, last year at Churchill Downs and finished second in her 2020 debut, the $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3) Jan. 26 at Sam Houston. Lady Apple, Street Band, and Mylady Curlin, 1-3-4, respectively, in the Houston Ladies Classic, are also targeting the Azeri, along with Whoa Nellie, winner of the $100,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 25. Street Band and Whoa Nellie are trained by Larry Jones. Asmussen trains Lady Apple, who was Oaklawn’s leading 3-year-old filly last year after winning the $500,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3). Asmussen also trains Azeri candidate La Renoleta, unbeaten in five career starts after winning a Feb. 8 allowance race by 9 ¾ lengths in her American debut.
Nominations to the Azeri close March 5. The Azeri is the final major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 18. Amoss won the Azeri (then known as the Oaklawn Breeders’ Cup Stakes) in 2000 and 2001 with Heritage of Gold.