Analysis: How Letruska can upset the Apple Blossom

Analysis: How Letruska can upset the Apple Blossom
Photo: Ryan Thompson

Discussing the Grade 1, $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap on Saturday is bound to bring up a huge amount of interest and many disagreements, which is great for horse racing. Because two major stars in Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl are present, this is possibly the most anticipated race of the year. The race also offers one viable alternative.

The 12-for-17 Letruska holds a realistic chance to win. At 4-1 on the morning line, she presents attractive odds for bettors searching to defeat Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl.

When handicapping the Apple Blossom, forget about the names.

Monomoy Girl, the morning-line favorite, shows a pair of 123 TimeformUS Speed Figures to end her 2020 campaign and a more recent 120 on TimeformUS in February. In terms of class, she obviously owns a ton as the latter 123 figure came when capturing the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

If this mare runs to her most recent running lines, she will settle for a stalking position, about one or two lengths off the leader. But she probably is versatile enough to adapt and flash more speed. 

As for the second choice, Swiss Skydiver ran a huge 127 on TimeformUS when capturing the Preakness Stakes three starts ago, but only a 114 when off the board in the Breeders' Cup Distaff to finish off a great 2020 campaign. Upon return, she came back with a 122 on TimeformUS to win the Beholder Mile (G1).

As with the favorite, her natural position is a stalking style, although she won as a pacesetter in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and Santa Anita Oaks (G2) last year.

The third choice on the morning line shows rising TimeformUS figures of 113, 119 and 120.

Letruska won a pair of Grade 3 races at Gulfstream and Sam Houston Park in the winter before finishing second by a head in the local Azeri Stakes (G2) to Shedaresthedevil, the reigning Kentucky Oaks champion.

Her natural style is setting the pace, although the removal of blinkers has possibly made her more relaxed in those last three starts. In the Azeri, she ran as a stalker before closing the gap in the stretch run.

Without thinking about the names, Letruska is weaker than the first two options, but the advantage held by Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver is not huge. If Letruska repeats or improves upon the 120 on TimeformUS, it makes her a possible winner of the Apple Blossom as long as Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver do not run to their peak efforts.

Given the long summer ahead and the Breeders' Cup in November, the connections of Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver likely do not want to empty the tanks of their amazing stars right now.

Furthermore, if Letruska secures the lead, she will have an even greater chance. According to TimeformUS Pace Projector, Letruska is supposed to set the pace uncontested, with Monomoy Girl chasing in second and Swiss Skydiver in third. It depends on how Irad Ortiz Jr. rides Letruska.

Not securing the lead does not eliminate Letruska, as she lost by only a head to Shedaresthedevil as a stalker. Remember, Shedaresthedevil beat Swiss Skydiver in the Kentucky Oaks, which means Letruska barely lost to a Grade 1-quality filly in the Azeri.

Note that Letruska lost ground by taking the second turn wide.

Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver are two future Hall of Famers. No one denies their past accomplishments, class or overall ability, but horse betting is not a game to support fan favorites if the odds are too low.

Here are examples of mild upsets over favorites in this race. In the 1997 edition of the Apple Blossom, the front-running Halo America at 5-1 beat Jewel Princess and Different. Jewel Princess had won the 1996 Distaff and began 1997 with two straight Grade 1 wins.

In the 2018 Apple Blossom, the 9-2 Unbridled Mo beat the mega-popular Unique Bella by 2 1/4 lengths. Granted, Unique Bella had a terrible start, but that is always possible in racing. Favorites could lose through many ways, including a bad break, traffic or pace problems.

Letruska is a viable win bet in the Apple Blossom at 7-2 or higher. A place bet is not worth the effort, as Monomoy Girl or Swiss Skydiver will complete the exacta if Letruska wins.

If Letruska falls below 7-2, then consider skipping the bet and just watch a great race.

2021 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1)

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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