Apple Blossom Queen, Letruska, feeling good post-race

April 18, 2021

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Letruska will remain at Oaklawn for the next few days before possibly heading to Churchill Downs, her trainer, Fausto Gutierrez, said Sunday morning, roughly 12 hours after the Mexican champion edged two-time Eclipse Award winner Monomoy Girl in the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares.

Letruksa earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 102, a career high, for her front-running nose victory under Irad Ortiz Jr. Gutierrez said Letruksa came out of the 1 1/16-mile race in good order, but next-race plans are pending for the 5-year-old daughter of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner and Arkansas Derby runner-up Super Saver. Letruksa was coming off a runner-up finish, beaten a head by Shedaresthedevil, in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 13 at Oaklawn.

“She ran an incredible race,” Gutierrez said. “We lost in the Azeri by a head. Here, we win by a nose. This nose made a big difference.”

Gutierrez said he initially considered wheeling back Letruksa in the $500,000 La Troienne Stakes (G1) April 30 at Churchill Downs, but said it comes back too quick, particularly after a demanding race Saturday. He said shipping to Churchill Downs would still keep Letruska in the Midwest “area.”

Letruksa, after not breaking sharply in the Apple Blossom, was pressed by Monomoy Girl and Eclipse Award winner Swiss Skydiver throughout. After briefly surrendering the lead to Monomoy Girl in midstretch, Letruksa ($8.80) fought back on the inside to narrowly prevail. It was 6 ½ lengths farther back to Swiss Skydiver in third. The winning time over a fast track was 1:43.14. Letruksa carried 118 pounds, 6 less than high-weighted Monomoy Girl, who was beaten for just the third time in 17 lifetime starts.

“I think we’re going to take a little bit more time with her,” Gutierrez said. “The plan is to go to the Breeders’ Cup. We need to check in the middle, which races we can go to.”

The Apple Blossom represents the biggest career victory for Gutierrez, 53, who, like the mare’s owner/breeder, German Larrea Mota-Velasco (St. George Stable LLC), is from Mexico. Letruksa won her first seven career starts, including six at Hipodromo De Las Americas in Mexico City. The streak was highlighted by blowouts in two legs of Mexico’s Triple Crown for 3-year-old fillies in 2019 – Clasico Esmeralda (G1) and Clasico Diamante (G1) – when Letruksa was named the country’s divisional champion.

Gutierrez said Letruksa’s Apple Blossom victory was noteworthy because it made her the first horse to begin its racing career in Mexico to capture a Grade 1 event in the United States. Letruksa, in her Grade 1 debut in the United States, finished fifth in the $300,000 Ballerina Stakes (G1) August 8 at Saratoga.

Letruksa had previously won the $125,000 Shuvee Stakes (G3) Aug. 30 at Saratoga, $100,000 Rampart Stakes (G3) Dec. 12 at Gulfstream Park and the $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3) Jan. 31 at Sam Houston.

“She’s a great horse, she’s amazing,” Gutierrez said. “Five years is a perfect age.”

Gutierrez is based in south Florida, where he keeps 12 horses at Palm Meadows Training Center. Letruksa, however, remained at Oaklawn following the Azeri, recording two half-mile workouts in advance of the Apple Blossom.

“Of course, this helped, because she adapted better,” Gutierrez said. “She’s a horse with a lot character. She liked the track. The weather was perfect. Finally, when you have these type of results, everything is perfect.”

Letruksa shipped into trainer John Ortiz’s barn last April at Oaklawn (an allowance victory during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic) and again for the Azeri. Ortiz and his staff helped care for Letruska following the Azeri, when Gutierrez said he returned twice to Florida.

“Johnny Ortiz, he’s a very good friend,” Gutierrez said. “He’s a person that helped me with everything and we spoke about what was better for the horse. I feel he’s part of this win, 100 percent. He’s a young trainer that’s had very good results.”

Ortiz, among Oaklawn’s top 10 trainers with 12 victories through Saturday, said he galloped Letruksa after she arrived in Arkansas, adding she was a “very nice-moving filly” and “fast.”

“We treated her like one of our own,” Ortiz said as he clutched the Apple Blossom trophy late Saturday afternoon. “Nice seeing these type of horses in your barn.”

The victory improved Letruska’s record to 13-1-1 from 18 lifetime starts. She collected $600,000 for her Apple Blossom victory to become a millionaire ($1,157,319. Larrea Mota-Velasco, a copper mining mogul, bred Letruksa in Kentucky.

Shedaresthedevil, co-owned by Staton Flurry of Hot Springs, is scheduled to make her next start in the La Troienne. 

Oaklawn Barn Notes

Photo: Letruska gets the edge on Monomoy Girl to win the Apple Blossom. (Coady)

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