While Serengeti Empress' performance does not rank with exhibitions like those thrown down by Rachel Alexandra or Untapable, it still represents a remarkable recovery from an episode of respiratory bleeding suffered during the running of the Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (USA-II) just six weeks earlier. It also represents a top-level North American triumph for an Argentine family that has been hanging on by a slender thread.
A member of the fourth crop of the Grade I-winning Distorted Humor horse Alternation, Serengeti Empress is out of the unraced Bernardini mare Havisham, who was sold to Korea for US$12,000 out of the 2016 Keeneland November sale while carrying a full sister to Serengeti Empress. Since her export, the mare has also produced a 2018 filly by Tiz Wonderful. Her history is an odd parallel to that of the dam of disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security, Lil Indy; also exported to Korea at a modest price (US$11,000) while carrying a full sibling to her now-famous offspring, Lil Indy produced a full sister to Maximum Security in Korea on March 28.
Havisham is the only filly produced from Argentine-bred Love Dancing, who won the 2007 Premio Manuel J. Guiraldes (ARG-III) during her own racing days but managed to produce only two indifferent winners from five named foals, a circumstance that led to her being sold for the equivalent of US$1,060 at the 2016 Goffs November sale. A daughter of 1991 Hopeful Stakes (USA-I) winner Salt Lake (by Deputy Minister), she was produced from Le Midi, also the dam of multiple Group I-placed Lethal Weapon (by Southern Halo) and Group II-placed Lethal Gun (by Orpen).
A daughter of the high-class sire and broodmare sire Fitzcarraldo, Le Midi was an even better race mare than Love Dancing, winning the 1989 Polla de Potrancas de La Plata (ARG-II) and Premio Clemente Benevides (ARG-III) and placing in two Group I events. By far the best produce of her dam and the only one to breed on with any success, she in turn was produced from unraced La Tempestad, whose sire Cipol won two legs of the Argentine Triple Crown in 1970 before becoming a successful sire. The female line traces back to Venusta, who was imported to Argentina from England in 1889 and became one of the great taproot mares of Argentine breeding.
Serengeti Empress still has some racing to do before she is retired to carry on her family's legacy, but through her female family, she will bring some welcome outcross blood into the North American gene pool. Until that time, long may she reign at the racetrack.