November 30, 2020

Covfefe wears down Serengeti Empress in Test; Leinster takes Troy in stakes debut

Covfefe and jockey Joel Rosario win the Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on July 3, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

Covfefe had never won a race other than in wire-to-wire fashion, but on Saturday showed a slightly new dimension when stalking Serengeti Empress before wearing down that long-time leader to win the $500,000 Test (G1) at Saratoga by a half-length under Joel Rosario.

More or less forced to be sent from post 1, Serengeti Empress established an early one-length advantage through splits of :22.19 and :44.28. Covfefe settled in second, and these two fillies would dominate the proceedings. Putting a head in front at the eighth pole, Covfefe edged clear late to win in a time of 1:21.26 for seven furlongs over a fast track.

Owned by LNJ Foxwoods and trained by Brad Cox, Covfefe returned $8.50 as the third choice. Serengeti Empress was 8 3/4 lengths clear of 2-1 favorite Bellafina, who was followed by Trenchtown Cat, Jeltrin, Royal Charlotte, and Please Flatter Me.

“Her last two works at Churchill were phenomenal,” Cox said. “I knew when we turned for home, we were going to get as good a Covfefe as we could get at this point of the year. I knew when she turned for home, she wasn’t going to give in today. If she was ever going to get seven-eighths it was going to be today. She responded well and Joel gave her an excellent trip. To get a Grade 1 with her is huge. It was a super effort.”

This was the second career stakes win for Covfefe, who destroyed a near 30-year-old track record at Pimlico on May 17 when taking the Miss Preakness (G3) by more than eight lengths in a time of 1:07 3/5. She was beaten less than a length by the older Grade 1-winning filly Mia Mischief in the $120,000 Roxelana at Churchill Downs last time. Her record now stands at 6-4-0-1, $483,300.

Bred in Kentucky by Alexander-Groves Thoroughbreds, Covfefe was a $250,000 Keeneland September yearling. She’s by Into Mischief and out of Antics, an Unbridled mare who has also reared Japanese Group 2 winner Albiano.

Antics is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner and noted sire Arch, Grade 1 winner Acoma, and UAE Horse of the Year Festival of Light. Covfefe traces to 1983 champion juvenile filly Althea and Broodmare of the Year Courtly Dee.

Leinster and jockey Tyler Gaffalione win the Troy Stakes (G3) at Saratoga on July 3, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

On paper, the scratch of morning-line favorite World of Trouble from the $194,000 Troy (G3) due to a reported foot bruise figured to benefit the Christophe Clement-trained pair of gray veterans, Pure Precision and Disco Partner. Stakes newcomer Leinster had other ideas.

Taking advantage of a wickedly-fast pace of :20.82 and :43.01 set by Rocket Heat, Leinster rallied strongly outside Disco Partner in the final sixteenth to win by three-quarters of a length in a course record 1:00.23 for 5 1/2 furlongs on the firm Mellon turf course.

Owned by Amy Dunne and trained by Rusty Arnold, Leinster returned $13. Disco Partner finished one length ahead of Pure Sensation, the 17-10 favorite in the field of five.

“It set up perfect,” jockey Tyler Gaffalione said. “The speed went on and we were able to track them in a nice stalking position. When I asked him for run coming into the stretch, he kicked on and finished the job nicely. He galloped out well. He seems to keep improving every time he runs.”

A maiden through his first 13 starts, two of which were under the tutelage of Arnold after his acquisition from trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Leinster finally graduated, by 3 3/4 lengths, in a first-level allowance at Keeneland on April 18 going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. He further established his fondness for the surface and trip with a 2 1/4-length score at Churchill Downs in a second-level allowance on June 28. His record now stands at 16-3-4-3, $300,111.

“The plan is to go to Kentucky Downs,” said Arnold, referring to the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3) on September 7. “We were going to go there anyway, we wanted to see how he fit before he did it, and he fit pretty well.”

Bred in Kentucky by Gryphon Investments and an $85,000 Fasig-Tipton July yearling, Leinster is a Majestic Warrior half-brother to two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) winner Stormy Liberal. He’s out of Vasar, by Royal Academy.