Letruska Wins Fleur de Lis Impressively
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Courtesy of Byron King of America's Best Racing
A champion in Mexico, St. George Stable's Letruska now finds herself contending—if not leading—for a championship this year as North America's outstanding older dirt female.
The speedy 5-year-old Super Saver mare put on another overpowering display June 26 at Churchill Downs in the $300,000 Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Stakes, notching her fourth graded stakes win from five starts this year in her customary frontrunning manner.
Coming off victories in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap and Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes, Letruska was heavily favored at 7-10 odds in the six-horse Fleur de Lis. She quickly showed why, taking charge under Jose Ortiz with splits of :24.53, :48.19, and 1:11.36 in the 1 1/8-mile dirt race, while being chased by Antoinette.
Under coaxing from Florent Geroux, Godolphin's Antoinette put occasional pressure on the leader—but each time, 124-pound highweight Letruska spurted away. A length and a half in front after six furlongs, she extended her advantage down the stretch, opening up a four-length lead after a mile and was 5 3/4 lengths ahead of Antoinette, who was carrying 119, at the wire.
The Fausto Gutierrez trainee raced 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.57 on a fast track. Her time was faster than champion Midnight Bisou's 1:48.99 clocking last year, and the quickest in the race since Paid Up Subscriber ran 1:48.44 in 2016.
Asked if he believed Letruska ($3.40) should be considered the leader for a championship, Gutierrez responded affirmatively.
"She won four stakes races. She has run with the top horses in the division—Swiss Skydiver, (Monomoy Girl), Shedaresthedevil, and she won. She battled them, all the ones. I like that any track where she goes, she runs. Any conditions. So I think yes.
"And why not maybe think to run with the boys? You never know."
Antoinette bravely fended off second favorite Envoutante for the place in the Fleur de Lis, leaving that one three-quarters of a length behind in third.
Point of Honor, Spice is Nice, and Vault completed the order of finish.
Except for a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park March 13, when she broke poorly and fell a head short of catching 2020 Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil, Letruska been perfect this year—leading at every call in her other races. Nor does she need urging to assert herself.
"I was just sitting on her," said Ortiz, describing his confident ride.
The Fleur de Lis is the ninth victory in the U.S. for Letruska, who won her first six starts in Mexico before being imported to race in this country. Six of those U.S. wins have been graded stakes.
The Fleur de Lis was a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" event for the Nov. 6 Grade 1 Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff at Del Mar, though the designation didn't matter for the winner. She had already qualified in the June 5 Ogden Phipps, her first race in this country without the anti-bleeding medication furosemide, commonly referred to as Lasix. The Fleur de Lis was her second.
"There was a little question mark coming into this race off three weeks rest, but I knew Fausto is a great trainer, and he'd have her ready," said Ortiz, who won his third Fleur de Lis, all since 2018.
Bred in Kentucky by St. George Stables, an operation owned by Germán Larrea Mota-Velasco, Letruska started racing in the United States in December. She has earned more than $1.6 million.
Letruska is out of the Grade 2-placed Successful Appeal mare Magic Appeal, dam of 10 foals, seven to race, and five winners. Three of her foals have earned black type, led by Letruska and listed stakes winner Trigger Warning, who also placed in the 2018 Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby. The mare also has a 2-year-old colt named Ocotzingo (Hard Spun), an unnamed yearling colt by Arrogate, and foaled a Malibu Moon filly this year.
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