Letruska Noses Out Monomoy Girl In An Apple Blossom Thriller

Saturday’s $1-million, Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap was billed as a match of North American champions Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver, but a third champion – this one from Mexico – stole the show when Letruska re-rallied in deep stretch to snatch victory from Monomoy Girl by a nose in a stirring renewal of Oaklawn’s major race for fillies and mares in Hot Springs, Ark.

Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Letruska – a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred Super Saver mare bred and owned by St. George Stables and trained by Fausto Gutierrez – set the pace in the Apple Blossom and was passed by Monomoy Girl in the stretch. But the winner of 12 previous races from 17 starts – including a trio of G3 events in the U.S. after being imported from Mexico – fought back gallantly for the win. She covered 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.13 and paid $8.80 as the third wagering choice.

Monomoy Girl, the 3-5 favorite and two-time champion (3-year-old filly in 2018 and older dirt mare in 2020), finished second. Swiss Skydiver, the champion 3-year-old filly in 2020, was a non-threatening third after racing close up early but bottled up along the inside. Getridofwhatailesu, like Monomoy Girl trained by Brad Cox, finished fourth in the field of six.

Monomoy Girl carried high weight of 124 pounds, conceding two pounds to Swiss Skydiver and six pounds to Letruska.

The defeat ended a six-race win streak for Monomoy Girl that included G1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff victories in 2018 and 2020. Her last defeat was when finishing first but being disqualified for interference in the G1 Cotillion at Parx in 2018. The Apple Blossom was just the second time in 17 races she didn’t cross the finish line ahead of her competition. That only other occurrence was when second to Road to Victory in the G2 Golden Rod Stakes as a 2-year-old in 2017.

Letruska at Oaklawn

Letruska was first seen in the U.S. when she won the Copa Invitational del Caribe Stakes at Gulfstream Park in December 2019, coming to this country undefeated in six starts in Mexico. Gutierrez eased the mare into graded stakes company, winning the G3 Shuvee at Saratoga in 2020 and adding the G3 Rampart at Gulfstream last December and then taking the G3 Houston Ladies Classic in January. She came off a narrow defeat to 2020 G1 Kentucky Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil in the G2 Azeri at Oaklawn.

Letruska outran Swiss Skydiver for the early lead and set fractions of :23.56, :47.96 and 1:12.26 for the opening six furlongs with Monomoy Girl on her right flank most of the way. Monomoy Girl passed Letruska in the stretch, setting a one-mile fraction of 1.36.91, but Letruska fought back gamely for the win.

Post-race quotes:

Winning trainer Fausto Gutierrez, Letruska: “The instructions were: ‘We are the speed of the race.’ She started a little bit slow in the last races. I told Irad (Ortiz Jr.), ‘No matter if this happens, you try to move and go in front and set the pace and make the others think: What do you have to do?’ He has magical hands. It’s not this race. He does this all the time. When (Monomoy Girl) took the lead and I saw Swiss Skydiver start to go a little bit back, in my mind, I thought second is very good. We finished close. She started to come back and come back. I didn’t see the picture very clearly. I went carefully to check the replay and I thought, ‘Oops, we won.’ For me, this is incredible because I come from a small racetrack in Mexico City. This horse started her career there. We had the confidence to send her here (United States) and she started to improve, improve and improve. She’s run at different tracks. She’s run at Houston, Saratoga, Gulfstream. She’s a very tough horse, but this is the best result she’s had in her career.”

Trainer Fausto Gutierrez

Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr, Letruska: “I got the right trip. She likes to be on the lead. I let her go, let her make the lead. She relaxed and I was able to save something for the end. She responded really well.

Jockey Florent Geroux, second on Monomoy Girl: “Great trip. Just made the lead, she just started wandering around at the end. Done that pretty much all her career. It’s too bad we got caught today.”

Jockey Robby Albarado, third on Swiss Skydiver: “I’m not going to fault her by any means. She was in a good spot the whole way. It was really a match race from the five-eighths pole home. Everybody changed positions. She had a great chance turning for home to go on with it and didn’t. Maybe second race back, who knows? She’ll come back.”

The post Letruska Noses Out Monomoy Girl In An Apple Blossom Thriller appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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