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Serengeti Empress victorious in Oaks

AP

Serengeti Empress dispelled questions about her health and ability with a signature performance in the biggest race of her career.

The filly went wire-to-wire to win the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks by 1¾ lengths over Liora on Friday at Churchill Downs.

The start featured a scary moment when Positive Spirit fell down and threw jockey Manny Franco after clipping heels as the 14-horse field squeezed together from the gate. Both were able to get up and walk off the track. Serengeti Empress started from the No. 13 post to lead by the first turn and kept it up despite 38-1 shot Liora’s late attempt to close the gap.

The dark brown filly rebounded from a seventh-place run in the Fair Grounds Oaks — a race in which she was vanned off the track with external bleeding — to win the 145th running of the premier race for 3-year-old fillies. Serengeti Empress earned her second graded win in three starts this year and third overall in eight career races, and gave trainer Tom Amoss his first Kentucky Oaks victory.

“I have had all the sacrifices all trainers have,” Amoss said immediately afterward. “I got to taste the sweet, sweet drink of the Kentucky Oaks and I want more. This is awesome.”

Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Serengeti Empress covered 1Ή miles in 1 minute, 50.17 seconds.