Proving that “wise-guy” options sometimes offer a sound argument in big races, Letruksa led the field from the first turn to the wire in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn to beat the heavily favored Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver. The consistent 5-year-old mare formerly based in Mexico took her first Grade 1 race and 13th win out of 18 overall starts.
At 3-1, Letruska admittedly began the race at slightly underlaid odds. Given the $8.80 payoff though for a $2 win bet, she did not miss the fair value line of 7-2 stated in my Thursday blog post by a huge margin.
For those who bet Letruska, the most satisfying part is that she outran Monomoy Girl fair and square. Letruska also took advantage of a poor ride on Swiss Skydiver and put her in a compromising position early.
As seen in the replay below, Swiss Skydiver broke on the lead after jockey Robby Albarado gave a few pumps at the break. However, Albarado balked and elected not to put up a fight when Letruska went gliding to the front under Irad Ortiz Jr.
After taking the first turn slightly wide, Letruska shifted back to close the gap on Swiss Skydiver. Letruska hit the first quarter in 23.56.
While Letruska led, Monomoy Girl tracked her on the outside of Swiss Skydiver.
From the regular replay angle, it is not easy to see the entire picture of lane shifting on the backside. At this point though, it seems Ortiz decided to keep Swiss Skydiver in check. After track announcer Vic Stauffer mentioned an inside opening, Ortiz closed the path and forced Swiss Skydiver to lose crucial momentum after a half-mile in 47.96.
On the far turn, Letruska still led as Monomoy Girl started to move forward. The pair drifted, allowing Swiss Skydiver one more chance to go through. She came up empty.
Then in the stretch run, racing fans were given a show to remember for the rest of their lives. Sure, most of them did not imagine Letruska in the fight. Nevertheless, a memorable battle occurred between two horses.
Monomoy Girl briefly took control of the lead under a handride from Florent Geroux. When Ortiz went to the left-handed whip on Letruska though, the change in action brought Letruska eye to eye with Swiss Skydiver and Letruska found one more gear after looking beat. The two of them suddenly were even again as Letruska went to battle late.
Letruska and Monomoy Girl fought to the wire, and Letruska won.
Afterward, an empty Swiss Skydiver made her way across the wire in third, 6 1/2 lengths behind the winner Letruska and Monomoy Girl. Swiss Skydiver beat Getridofwhatailesu in fourth by 1 1/4 lengths, with 1 1/2 lengths separating Getridofwhatailesu and Another Broad in fifth and 8 1/4 lengths between Another Broad and Chance to Shine in last. Overall, the six-horse field spread thin at the wire over 17 1/2 lengths.
With the victory, Letruska stamped herself as a major force in the Distaff division. And the excellent Apple Blossom effort did not come out of thin air. One month ago, she lost to Kentucky Oaks champion Shedaresthedevil in the Azeri Stakes (G2) by only a head.
For now, Monomoy Girl remains the division leader. She lost the final battle in the stretch but ran equal to Letruska in heart and speed figures, as both Letruska and Monomoy Girl put up a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. This blog does not emphasize weight often, but Monomoy Girl also gave up six pounds because of the handicap conditions of the race.
Swiss Skydiver did not offer anything late. The early indecision by Albarado likely cost her, as he gave clear signals for Swiss Skydiver to show speed out of the gate and then oddly accepted the inside pocket behind Letruska and inside of Monomoy Girl. With the indecisive ride leading to a trapped position, she never went into a comfortable rhythm.
In the past, Swiss Skydiver has been capable of setting the pace and winning. Last year she won the Gulfstream Oaks (G2) and Santa Anita Oaks (G2) on the lead.
Expect Swiss Skydiver to bounce back with a strong effort as long as she receives a cleaner trip.
To go back to the handicapping and betting discussion, it is important to not view stars as invincible forces. Because most of us start following racing as simple fans, many bettors develop bias without realizing it.
Yes, Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver had the best class credentials on paper leading up to the race as multiple Grade 1 winners and Eclipse Award champions. However, Letruska came into the race owning a few speed figures within range of the top two. Plus, the removal of blinkers was helping her turn more consistent, as she showed since December.
As strange as this sounds, handicapping betting on horses does not always mean picking the best horse. Accepting low odds on stars such as Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver usually involves placing more money on them to get a decent return, and that is a high risk.
Although the 3-1 odds on Letruska felt somewhat low as well, she still offered a more attractive odds than accepting 3-5 on Monomoy Girl and hoping she delivered. Imagine putting a few hundred on Monomoy Girl and getting a panic attack watching her fight in the stretch. At 3-5, the horse in question is supposed to win without a doubt by a few lengths.
Only last week on the same course, the 12-1 Super Stock took down the 1-5 Concert Tour in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Super Stock was not the blog selection, but it works as another example. In horse betting, there is almost never a 100 percent lock. Anything can happen in this game.
Graded stakes races typically are when emotion becomes a factor in public wagering, and that is where bettors can take advantage by playing against favorites with large followings of fans behind them.
In future races with a major star or two that look overbet, think about whether a different horse comes close to the favorites with improving form and speed figures. Letruska became a bit of a “wise-guy” option, but there will be situations where a suitable under-the radar horse is there. That is the lesson of the Apple Blossom results.