Serengeti Empress has one more race before the breeding shed awaits. McKinzie is headed to stud immediately. And so drops the curtain on two of the more prominent Thoroughbreds of the last three years.

Serengeti Empress-Retirement
Serengeti Empress gets one more opportunity to duplicate her victory here in the Ballerina Stakes. She’ll head to the breeding shed after the Breeders’ Cup. (Image: Chris Rahayel/NYRA)

Serengeti Empress will make her final start in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Nov. 7 at Keeneland. But McKinzie won’t return for one more shot at the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he finished second to Vino Rosso last year at Santa Anita Park.

The 4-year-old Serengeti Empress already has a date at Spendthrift Farm with Into Mischief after that Breeders’ Cup race. Into Mischief is the hottest sire in North America, with his stud fee boosted to $225,000 for 2021.

That sets the mind into motion, contemplating Into Mischief producing a foal with a mare who won seven of her 18 starts and $2,005,653 in career earnings. Serengeti Empress owns two Grade 1 victories: the 2019 Kentucky Oaks and August’s Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga.

Serengeti Empress Comes Off Grade 1 Runner-Up

She has three other runner-up finishes in Grade 1s, including her last-out effort at Churchill Downs last month in the Derby City Distaff. There, Serengeti Empress held off Bell’s the One before losing by a nose in a photo finish.

Six of the front-running filly’s seven career victories came in stakes races. Five of those were graded stakes. This year, Serengeti Empress won two of six races, including the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park, and finished second in two others. All from a $70,000 purchase at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

“I’m looking forward to one more race with her,” trainer Tom Amoss told Keeneland last week.

McKinzie Retires With More than $3 Million

After losing his last two starts as the favorite, McKinzie’s connections won’t enjoy the same experience. They will, however, enjoy the experience of owning and working with a horse who won $3,473,360 and four Grade 1 victories in his career.

The progeny of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, McKinzie won eight races and finished second six more times in 18 career starts. His 11 triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures are the most of any stallion entering the breeding shed next season. But the Bob Baffert trainee heads to his stud career at Gainesway Farm carrying a sense of “what-if.”

McKinzie won Grade 1s at 2, 3 and 4, including the Pennsylvania Derby at 3 and the Whitney Stakes at 4. That came with a stellar 111 Beyer. He finished second in four Grade 1s, including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic – the race he’s passing running for a third time.

A Checkered Career With Made and Missed Opportunities

But he also frustrated his connections as a beaten favorite numerous times, including his two final races: the Met Mile at Belmont (fifth) and the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs (fourth). McKinzie opened his year finishing a well-beaten 11th in the Saudi Cup. He entered the race as the 7/2 second favorite behind eventual winner Maximum Security.

This year epitomized McKinzie’s up-and-down career. His only 2020 victory came in the Grade 2 Triple Bend Stakes against a weak field at Santa Anita.

McKinzie took his name from Baffert’s good friend, racing executive Brad McKinzie, who died of cancer in 2017. As a result, the horse was always one of Baffert’s favorites.

“From day 1, McKinzie has just been exceptional,” Baffert said in a statement released by Gainesway Farm. “He is a gorgeous physical (specimen) with brilliant speed and stamina. I’ve only had one other horse in my career that has been able to accomplish what he’s done by winning a Grade 1 at 2, 3 and 4. It takes an extraordinary horse to achieve that.”