Oaklawn's Apple Blossom Handicap Results and Payouts for 4/23/22

Apple Blossom Handicap ResultsPayoffs - Win Place Show
1Letruska - $3.80; $2.60; $2.10
2Clairiere - $2.20; $2.10
3 Ce Ce - $2.20

Champion Letruska Scores Repeat Win in Apple Blossom Handicap

The ears told the story.

As champion Letruska led the five-horse field for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) down the Oaklawn Park backstretch, the daughter of Super Saver had the carriage of an athlete thoroughly enjoying their work. With her ears pricked and her stride in its typical rhythm, the 6-year-old was giving off all the signs that while there still may be ground to cover, the outcome of the 1 1/16-miles race was all but determined.

When fellow Eclipse Award heroine Ce Ce tried to come at her around the far turn and Grade 1 winner Clairiere joined the fray in the stretch, Letruska showed just how much she was relishing her time around the Hot Springs oval. The reigning champion older dirt female added another accolade to her stout resume when she became just the fourth horse in the race’s history to win more than one edition of the Apple Blossom, scoring a 1 ¼-length triumph on April 23.

It was this time a year ago when Letruska let the distaff ranks know how much of a problem she was as she defeated two-time Eclipse Award winner Monomoy Girl by a nose in the 2021 Apple Blossom to earn her first top-level win. That victory would be the first of four Grade 1 wins the bay mare would notch during her 5-year-old campaign as she earned divisional honors, officially cementing herself as the horse of a lifetime for her trainer Fausto Gutierrez and owner/breeder St. George Stable.

“This horse is different,” Gutierrez said. “To win the Apple Blossom twice is great. This was a handicap and now we’re giving weight, you have to remember that. When we won the Apple Blossom last year, (champion) Monomoy (Girl) was giving us weight. That’s a difference this year. She ran great. All the time I’m nervous with these races.”

After ending her season with a tenth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) last November, Letruska got back to her winning ways when she captured the Royal Delta Stakes (G3) in her seasonal bow at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 26. Against a salty Apple Blossom field that included Ce Ce, the 2020 Apple Blossom winner and reigning champion female sprinter, Letruska did what she does best in using her early speed to put her rivals away early, cutting fractions of :23.77 and :47.26 while holding a clear lead down the backstretch.

“I used my weapon. I knew Clairiere would be coming late so I used my speed and I was able to hold her off,” winning jockey Jose Ortiz said. “I felt my filly was in a very nice rhythm. I knew with the way she running the last eighth, it would take a super horse to go by her. I knew they were there, but when I felt her switch to the left lead I felt she gave me another gear and when I looked, I saw the other filly (Clairiere) there, but I never thought they were going to go by.”

Ce Ce tried to engage the winner around the turn for home, but had to settle for third after being caught late by Clairiere for second. However, neither were a match for the reigning Letruska, who covered the distance in a final time of 1:42.22 over a track rated fast.

“Turning for home, I got a little excited,” said Victor Espinoza, jockey of Ce Ce. “She ran a good race. It’s the way the race set up because nobody really challenged her (Letruska) in the race, like the first five-eighths. It’s hard to catch horses like that in front. But Ce Ce, she ran well.”

Letruska improved her record to 19-1-1 in 25 starts and has earned $2,948,529. She returned $3.80, $2.60 and $2.10 as the heavy 4-5 favorite.

“She’s come back in good form and now we’re thinking about the next race,” Gutierrez said. “I think she’ll leave tomorrow night or Monday and go back to Keeneland.”

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