By Ryan Martin
• Chasing Yesterday, Kingly Not Making Trip to Fair Grounds
• Serengeti Empress, Lone Sailor Ready for Their First Tests of the Year
• McFadden Not Getting Ahead of Himself with Risen Star Contender Country House
CHASING YESTERDAY, KINGLY NOT MAKING TRIP TO FAIR GROUNDS
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert confirmed via text message on Tuesday morning that both of his entrants for Saturday will not be making the trip to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford.
Clearview Stables’ Kingly, who was entered in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford, will instead target the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields this Saturday. No plans have been made for Summer Wind Equine’s Chasing Yesterday, who was the 5-2 morning line favorite for the Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes.
SERENGETI EMPRESS, LONE SAILOR READY FOR FIRST TESTS OF THE YEAR
The faith that trainer Tom Amoss has in graded stakes winners Serengeti Empress and Lone Sailor has maintained a high level throughout the winter. On Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford, Amoss will put both of them to the test for their first start of the year but believes that their best days of the year are further down the road.
Now a 4-year-old, Lone Sailor is set for his 2019 debut in the Grade III $150,000 Mineshaft Handicap while Serengeti Empress will seek another score on the Road To The Kentucky Oaks in the Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes. The daughter of Alternation has already acquired 10 points toward the Grade I $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks with a stunning 19½-length runaway win in the Grade II Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs last September.
“I think there are a lot of similarities between their fitness,” Amoss said. “With Lone Sailor we want a good effort and want to see him run a race where he finishes up well. In the end, it’s more about having a race to move forward from. I’m not trying to dismiss their chances but at the same time no matter how run; they’ll run better the next time. These races are not our end goal so this is a starting point but I do think they’ll run well.”
Owned by Joel Politi, Serengeti Empress has not raced since finishing a well-beaten seventh in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs on November 2. While she must first produce a good showing in Saturday’s race, the ultimate goal is the Grade II $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks at the end of the meet on March 23 – the final Fair Grounds qualifying race for the Kentucky Oaks.
“She’s really whatever you make her, she’s a lot of things,” Amoss said. “If you want her to be quick or want her to sit behind horses, she can do both. Precocious and good 2-year-olds don’t always become mature 3-year-olds, but she can. She’s built like an older horse and has a lot of substance to her and a lot of scope. Joel and I have worked together for the last seven or eight years. Coincidentally were at the [2017 Keeneland September Yearling] Sale at the same time and he and I spotted her together and we both liked her and were very fortunate enough to buy her for $70,000.”
G M B Racing’s Lone Sailor also races with another ultimate goal in mind, which is the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap. He has not raced since finishing sixth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic, but Amoss envisions a prosperous year form him as well.
“This is a one-step-at-a-time business,” Amoss said. “I think it’s safe to say we’d love to go to the New Orleans Handicap and the Fair Grounds Oaks and I feel like we have the best horse for those races. I think these are the kind that could get me there.”
Also running for Amoss on Saturday is Roiland in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Presented by Lamarque Ford. The James and Mary Durlacher-owned son of Successful Appeal made one start for Amoss this year when finishing seventh in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes on January 19. Nevertheless, Amoss’ faith in Roiland has not wavered.
“The Lecomte was a disappointment,” Amoss said. “With 3-year-olds it’s always a learning process until you season them and understand them. The race was over after the first 200 yards. Instead of maybe having him 20 lengths off the lead he’s 12 lengths off the lead this time and let his late run have some significance. I have not lost any confidence but he has to show it in the afternoons.”
All three of Amoss’ stakes contenders will be guided by Fair Grounds’ current leading rider James Graham.
MCFADDEN NOT GETTING AHEAD OF HIMSELF WITH RISEN STAR CONTENDER COUNTRY HOUSE
As a Thoroughbred owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, especially if you have a horse that’s simply entered in a Road To The Kentucky Derby qualifying race. Owner Guinness McFadden, however, is taking on a more realistic approach and is not determined to catch any Derby fever symptoms with Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes entrant Country House until his name is listed on the Leaderboard.
Owned by McFadden in partnership with Mrs. J.V. Shields and LNJ Foxwoods, the son of Lookin at Lucky broke his maiden third time out at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott, Country House came from off the pace and took command at the top of stretch to draw off under a hand ride by 3½ lengths.
“I don’t know that you ever really think you’re on the Derby trail until it happens,” McFadden said. “You just hope that he’s competitive and that he can get better going over a mile. We’re pretty pumped. Running here was Bill’s call. He had been training well and seemed to be moving forward so this seemed to be the next step. Bill’s a great trainer and we’ll keep doing what he suggests. Were really happy with where we are right now.”
The dam side of Country House’s pedigree possesses some turf and all-weather qualities. He is out of the War Chant broodmare Quake Lake who was a two time victor over the synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs. Her dam was Shooting Party who was Grade I-placed on grass and produced synthetic stakes winning millionaire and multiple graded stakes placed Breaking Lucky.
Country House’s career debut took place over the turf at Belmont Park but was a well-beaten ninth behind eventual stakes winner Empire of War. Prior to his maiden win, he finished a close second at 49-1 over the Aqueduct main rack behind eventual graded stakes-placed Kentucky Wildcat.
“He didn’t look too interested when we ran him first time on the turf,” McFadden recalled. “But he had definitely trained well on dirt. He looked like a dirt horse early on and seemed to get over the dirt nicely.”
Earlier on Saturday’s card, Country House’s older half-sister Mitchell Road is entered in the $75,000 Albert M. Stall Memorial Stakes. The homebred 4-year-old daughter of English Channel will seek her third straight win in her stakes debut and has never been beaten more than a half-length. Like Country House, she also is trained by Mott.
“They weren’t too similar when I last saw them,” McFadden said. He’s an imposing horse. He kind of comes off the pace and she wants to set the pace. There’s not too much similar about them I don’t think other than them both being good horses. They both like over a mile so that’s also a similarity.”
Both horses will be ridden by Luis Saez.