Apple Blossom H. 2022 Entries: Letruska defends vs. 4 others at Oaklawn

The 'Queen of the Track' returns to stakes action on Saturday in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park. Lestruska will face 4 other older females ... see what her chances are like in this preview! (Photo courtesy of Coady)
The "Queen of the Track" returns to stakes action on Saturday in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park. Lestruska will face 4 other older females ... see what her chances are like in this preview! (Photo courtesy of Coady)

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1 1/16th (Dirt), Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), Purse $1 Million, F&M 4+

The Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap marks the beginning of the end for the Oaklawn Park Meet … with only a few weeks left, we will be sad to see it go … Once the Arkansas Derby (G1) is in the books, it is one of the last major "graded stakes" in the month of April. Historically, some significant older females have won this race in fine fashion—Azeri, Zenyatta, Midnight Bisou, and last year, with Letruska, just to name a few. All these ladies became beloved favorites as their careers developed. This race was just one of many that defined them. Before we arrive at the middle of the season, it is a worthy test of endurance and strength at a dirt route.

Now, let’s find out about this field…

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#1 Maracuja (Jky: R. Santana/Trn: R. Atras):

One of a pair of 4-yr-old fillies entered in this Grade 1, trainer Rob Atras is hoping to build on a smart-looking performance at Oaklawn in a high-level OC100kn4l. In her 1st start of ’22, she flashed a strong set of late gears against 5 others. Ricardo Santana asked the proverbial question, and his mount responded in-kind. He is back aboard for what could be her coming-out-party. Last season, she ran 7th in the KYOaks (G1), then shipped to The SPA for both the Coaching Club (G1) where she upset Malathaat, and the Alabama (G1). Her year ended with a disappointing 4th in the Cotillion (G1) at Parx. Back at it … if she could turn the tables on the likes of this field, it could bode well for another run through Saratoga, and beyond … the BC Distaff (G1) at Keeneland. First thing’s first though …

Grade: B-

 

#2 Letrsuka (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: F. Gutierrez):

St George Stable found one of those “once in a life” runners that everyone dreams of … A mare by Super Saver came on the scene in 2021, and she was magnificent in so many races from the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) through last year’s win in the Apple Blossom (G1), and on to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) in November. Even though she did not bring her “A game” at Del Mar, it still was a stellar campaign. With a “workout” under her saddle in the Grade 3 Royal Delta, trainer Fausto Gutierrez ships her back to Oaklawn with high hopes for another celebrated score. Her current earnings come in at over $2.3 million. Only the great Azeri has gone back-to-back in this race … if anyone can accomplish such a feat, it is this “Queen.” Jockey Jose Ortiz is in-town to take the mount, and he will be replacing his brother Irad, who rode this mare last year. If this female can harness the power and strength that she did last year, then she has the potential to be just as successful as she was last year when she captured the Eclipse Award … what a racehorse … tops on the NTRA Poll, in my opinion.

Grade: A+

 

#3 Clairiere (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: S. Asmussen):

Another alum from the BC Distaff (G1), this Steve Asmussen-trainee is the other 4-yr-old entered in this highlight of the OP Meet. A daughter of Curlin, the Stonestreet homebred was 4th in the KYOaks after dueling with Travel Column along the Louisiana Series Trail. Later, she competed in some of the celebrated NYRA races, before winning nicely in the Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx. Asmussen started her ’22 season with a win down at the Fair Grounds against an inferior field. The HOF conditioner turns to Joel Rosario, a rider that has had quite a year. In a field like this one … quality over quantity … this is going to be quite a chore. Still, with these connections … anything is possible, especially with Rosario as pilot.

Grade: B

 

#4 Miss Imperial (Jky: T. Pereira/Trn: J. Hollendorfer):

The legacy of Jerry Hollendorfer continues to remain somewhere in the realm of limbo. His training career has resurfaced in Hot Springs, and this time around he has a seasoned mare entered in this spot. Since claiming this 6-yr-old by Maclean’s Music, Hollendorfer has advanced her up the class ladder from an OC30k all the way to an OC100kn4l … that’s progress. Regular jockey Tiago Pereira gets the call for the 5th time, but this “jump” will be the greatest challenge yet. Not even a HOF trainer can leap a tall building like the one. Maybe too much of an ask …

Grade: C+

 

#5 Ce Ce (Jky: V. Espinoza/Trn: M. McCarthy):

If there is a check against the power of Fausto Gutierrez’s mare, then it is probably coming from Mike McCarthy’s entry. The reigning BC F&M Sprint (G1) Champion, and Eclipse Award winner for best Female Sprinter, switched to a distance contest in the prep for the Apple Blossom (G1). Some pundits (including this one) thought that going from 6 or 7F races to 1 1/16th would be too difficult. It wasn’t … In the Azeri (G2), she took on both Pauline’s Pearl and Shedaresthedevil, winning in impressive fashion with a late burst of speed down the lane. Having Victor Espinoza ride her yet again, instills confidence, and I am sure that McCarthy and owner Bo Hirsch believe she can dethrone her rival. It will not be easy, but what we do know is that this is setting up to be one of the great races of this era. McCarthy’s outfit has had an unbelievable year, and a victory in this race would make it even better. By Elusive Quality, this mare is looking to add to her impressive resume, which includes over $2 million in earnings. Big chance is coming …

Grade: B+

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Join us Saturday for all of our selections! Should be a great set of races from Oaklawn Park! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!

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