October 20, 2020

Serengeti Empress among Grade 1-winning trio in Houston Ladies Classic

Serengeti Empress and jockey Jose Ortiz win the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 3, 2019 (c) Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

Three Grade 1-winning fillies from last year’s sophomore class will make up half the field in a stellar renewal of the $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3) at Sam Houston on Sunday.

Won last year by the marvelous Midnight Bisou, the 1 1/16-mile test is led by speedster Serengeti Empress, whose 2019 highlights included a 13-1 upset of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) followed by placings in the Acorn (G1), Test (G1), and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

“Our game plan is to send her to the lead as she does her best running using her natural speed,” said trainer Tom Amoss, who named Flavien Prat to ride.

Among those who could potentially keep Serengeti Empress from stealing the Classic is Ashland (G1) winner Out for a Spin, recently second to Saracosa in the Bob Fortus Memorial at Fair Grounds. Another with tactical foot is Lady Apple, third to Serengeti Empress in the Kentucky Oaks but a triple Grade 3 scorer last season in the Fantasy, Iowa Oaks, and Remington Park Oaks.

“I have nothing but respect for the competition this year,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Lady Apple. “The Houston Ladies Classic was the first stakes for the successful year we had with Midnight Bisou. We hope that Lady Apple moves forward as well from her 2020 debut.”

Street Band won four of eight starts last term, including the Cotillion (G1), Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), and Indiana Oaks (G3). However, she’s turned in sub-par performances on occasion. She endured some traffic troubles in both the Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

“This race at Sam Houston Race Park has been a nice fit for us and to win it three times would be great for this cowboy,” exclaimed trainer Larry Jones, who previously won the race with Joyful Victory in 2013 and Cassatt in 2015.

Mylady Curlin enjoyed a successful 2019 season winning six of 10 starts. Her four stakes triumphs for Brad Cox included the Falls City H. (G2) and Allaire du Pont Distaff (G3).

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The lone undercard stakes scheduled for the main track is the $75,000 Stonerside Sprint at 6 furlongs. Stakes winners Pete’s Play Call and Malpais, stakes newcomer Trumpence, and last-out Zia Park Derby hero Mr Money Bags highlight the competitive field.