Li’l Tootsie looking for her first stakes victory in the American Beauty

January 19, 2022

Oaklawn stakes winner Serengeti Empress is in foal to super sire Into Mischief and due any day, her former trainer, Tom Amoss, said Tuesday afternoon. There may be a due date of sorts for another runner campaigned by Amoss and owner Joel Politi, too, as Li’l Tootsie bids for her first career stakes victory in the $150,000 American Beauty for older female sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn.

Li’l Tootsie, who will be making her 4-year-old debut, has tested stakes company five times in her 11-race career. Her best finish to date was a third in the $250,000 Prioress (G2) for 3-year-old fillies Sept. 4 at Saratoga. Li’l Tootsie has returned with two consecutive sharp allowance victories, including Dec. 10 at Oaklawn in her last start, and is the 5-2 program favorite Saturday.

“We started the 4-year-old campaign of Serengeti Empress at Sam Houston and then went to Oaklawn after that,” Amoss said. “We ended up with a second in the Breeders’ Cup off of where we started her campaign. I don’t know where Li’l Tootsie’s going to take us in terms of talent. But she’s still a developing horse, having just turned 4, and we’re hoping this is kind of a springboard for us.”

From the second crop of millionaire Oaklawn stakes winner Tapiture, Li’l Tootsie has a 5-1-1 mark from 11 lifetime starts and earnings of $325,624. Politi purchased Li’l Tootsie for $105,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Li’l Tootsie broke her maiden sprinting last January at Fair Grounds and was an entry-level allowance winner the following month there in her two-turn debut before finishing fifth in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) at 1 1/16 miles in March. 

Li’l Tootsie ran sixth in the $300,000 Eight Belles Stakes (G2) at 7 furlongs April 30 at Churchill Downs and was allowance winner at 6 furlongs May 31 at Churchill Downs. She tried two turns again in the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (G3) July 7 at Indiana Grand and finished ninth. The 1 1/16-mile Indiana Oaks apparently ended Li’l Tootsie’s route career.

“We’re going to stay sprinting,” Amoss said.

Following the Prioress, Li’l Tootsie was a 3 ¾-length allowance winner Nov. 20 at Churchill Downs and closed her 3-year-old campaign with a 3 ¼-length victory allowance victory in December at Oaklawn. Both races were 6 furlongs. Li’l Tootsie has recorded two half-mile works at Fair Grounds, her home base, for her return to Oaklawn.

“There’s not much of a filly and mare dirt sprint schedule at the Fair Grounds,” Amoss said. “When she showed that she liked the track up there, we felt very comfortable about coming back in this spot.”

Amoss is seeking his 12th career Oaklawn stakes victory after capturing three at the 2020 meeting, including the $350,000 Azeri (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles with Serengeti Empress. 

Cutting back to one-turn races later that year, Serengeti Empress won the $300,000 Ballerina Stakes (G1) at Saratoga before finishing second in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Keeneland in her final career start. 

Highlighted by a Kentucky Oaks victory in 2019, Serengeti Empress earned $2,175,653 after Politi, a Columbus, Ohio, orthopedic surgeon, purchased the daughter of multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Alternation for just $70,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Politi retained Serengeti Empress upon retirement and bred her to Into Mischief, North America’s leading sire the last three years.

“She’s going to foal any day,” Amoss said. 

The projected American Beauty field from the rail out: Li’l Tootsie, Geovanni Franco to ride, 122 pounds, 5-2 on the morning line; Joy’s Rocket, Tiago Pereira, 115, 5-1; Ain’t No Elmers, Ramon Vazquez, 115, 12-1; Perfect Happiness, Martin Garcia, 122, 8-1; Abrogate, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122, 7-2; Sarah Harper, Jon Court, 122, 5-1; Candura, Cristian Torres, 115, 12-1; Wildwood’s Beauty, Francisco Arrieta, 122, 5-1; and Miss Mosaic, David Cabrera, 115, 10-1.

Probable post time for the American Beauty, the eighth of nine races, is 3:46 p.m. (Central). First post is 12:30 p.m.

Tour Update

Concert Tour’s first start at 4 resembled his last start at 3 – prominent early and leg weary late.

Making his first start since the Preakness last May, Concert Tour finished last of nine in Saturday’s $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses at 1 mile. The 3-2 favorite stalked the early pace before being beaten 15 lengths in his first start for trainer Brad Cox and first without blinkers. 

“He’s fine,” Cox said Sunday afternoon. “He bounced out of it. Obviously, there’s some frustration, but that’s part of it.”

Two of Concert Tour’s three victories for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert came when leading at every point of call, including his career debut last January at Santa Anita and the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds last March at Oaklawn. The 1 1/16-mile Rebel was Concert Tour’s first race around two turns. 

Concert Tour didn’t make the early lead in his next start, the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) last April at Oaklawn, and finished third and faded to ninth in the Preakness, beaten 34 ¼ lengths, after racing just off the early pace.

“I think he’s one of those horses, California, he broke, he’s on the lead and he won,” Cox said. “He came here, he broke good, he’s on the lead and he won. I think he’s probably a need-the-lead horse. He probably couldn’t have got the lead yesterday, I don’t really think, with that Mucho in the race. But at the three-eighths pole, he was kind of packing it in.”

While Cox will regroup with Concert Tour, the trainer still has a deep roster of older two-turn older stakes types, including Oaklawn-based Plainsman and Caddo River for John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs.

Caddo River, who finished second in the Arkansas Derby after beating Concert Tour to the lead, is entered in Saturday’s seventh race, a 1 1/16-mile allowance. Caddo River crossed the finish line first in his comeback race, a Dec. 19 allowance at 1 mile, but was disqualified and placed second for interference near the wire. 

Plainsman, a multiple Grade 3 winner, is scheduled to make his 2022 debut in the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 12. Plainsman finished a troubled third in his last start, the $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) Dec. 4 at Aqueduct. 

The Fifth Season was Oaklawn’s first major 2022 prep for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses April 23.

Finish Lines

Joel Rosario recorded a riding triple Sunday, winning the fourth race aboard Toma Todo ($9.60) for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, sixth race aboard A C Expressway ($10.40) for trainer Norm Casse and the eighth race aboard favored Man in the Can ($5.80) for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. Rosario, among three finalists for an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding jockey of 2021, resumed riding last Friday at Oaklawn after missing approximately six weeks because of a hairline fracture of a rib. Sunday marked the seventh multi-win day at Oaklawn for Rosario, who has 32 career victories in Hot Springs. He rode five winners May 2, 2020. … A double Sunday gave Asmussen the outright lead in the trainer standings with 14 victories through the first 18 days of racing. He also won the first race with Long Crow ($11.60). Asmussen has 769 career Oaklawn victories – No. 2 all time – and a record-tying 11 local training titles. Hall of Famer Henry Forrest also has 11 Oaklawn training titles. … Oaklawn surpassed $4 million in claims at the meet Sunday, Day 18 of the scheduled 66-day live season, with 173 totaling $4,015,750. There were 17 claims totaling $568,000 Sunday, both meet-high figures.

Oaklawn News and Barn Notes by Robert Yates

Photo: Li’l Tootsie (Coady Photography)

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