Serengeti Empress ran one of her best races last season in defeat, stretching division champion Covfefe to a half-length in the Test (G1). On Saturday, the Tom Amoss trainee is back running 7 furlongs at Saratoga in the $300,000 Ballerina H. (G1) while hoping to reverse some disappointing efforts going long in recent months.
The Ballerina offers an automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Keeneland in November, arguably a more fitting long-term for Serengeti Empress despite a strong third in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). After two strong runs to start her 4-year-old campaign, the speedy miss caved in both the Apple Blossom H. (G1) and Fleur de Lis H. (G2) in her last two.
“I didn’t think we did a very good job of kind of rating her speed,” trainer Tom Amoss said of the Fleur de Lis. “Having said that, she’s recovered well and she’s training well.”
Come Dancing, the leading older female sprinter in the country last season, is back to defend her Ballerina title, but has turned in a couple sub-par efforts in recent sprint attempts. Last time, she ran lengths below her best when second to outsider Victim of Love in the Vagrancy H. (G3).
“She really seems like she’s thriving. She loves Saratoga. She’s put on some weight since her last race and everything has gone pretty good,” trainer Carlos Martin said. “She still has the enthusiasm.”
Although she hasn’t always reproduced her best form outside California, Bellafina is a multiple Grade 1 winner, was a close second in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, and has been first or second in her past couple starts against graded company.
Pink Sands thrived at Gulfstream Park last winter, winning a pair of one-turn graded stakes, and is capable of better after a below-par run in the June 13 Ogden Phipps (G1). Grade 3 heroine Cookie Dough and minor stakes winner Letruska complete the field.
The $200,000 Troy Stakes (G3), a 5 1/2-furlong turf dash for older horses, features the return to action of Imprimis, last seen running sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) in November.
Winner last season of the Silks Run S. and Shakertown (G2) in back-to-back starts, the gelding was not as sharp late in the season following a trip to Royal Ascot, where he finished sixth in the King’s Stand (G1).
The veteran 9-year-old Pure Sensation looks to rebound from a lackluster comeback downstate in the Jaipur (G1) on June 20. He finished third in the 2019 edition of the Troy.
“I was very disappointed with his race in the Jaipur. He was in a speed duel that day and I hope it’s the reason that he ran poorly,” said trainer Christophe Clement. “He came back and had a very good work on the turf the other day here. He worked well and looks well.”
Fellow Clement trainee Shekky Shebaz was 2-for-2 over the Saratoga turf last year and is eligible to improve off a season-opening third in the Wolf Hill S. at Monmouth Park.
“He’s had one start with us and ran fair at Monmouth,” said Clement. “He ran wide all the way. He also looks good and trained well on the grass here.”
The $150,000 Waya Stakes (G3), for fillies and mares at 1 1/2 miles on the inner turf, marks the return to action of Mrs. Sippy. Winner of the Glens Falls (G2) in her U.S. debut last summer, she subsequently ran a close second in the Flower Bowl (G1) before disappointing in the Breeders’ Cup.
“We’ve been in a bit of a holding pattern with her. She’s been ready to run for a while,” trainer Graham Motion said. “We were going to run at Belmont and had to scratch and then we had her in the Robert Dick (G3) at Delaware which got taken off the grass. We’re anxious to get a start in her.”
Also lining up are 2019 Waya winner Fools Gold and her Chad Brown-trained stablemate My Sister Nat, runner-up in the New York (G2) and Long Island in her last two.