by Lynne Snierson
Letruska, an undefeated champion in Mexico, proved once again that she can star on both sides of the border with a dominant, gate-to-wire win in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park.
With the victory, which was her second straight in Grade 1 company against fillies and mares, she guaranteed her starting gate spot in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff as the Phipps is a “Win and You’re In” qualifying event for the race at Del Mar on November 6.
A St. George Stable homebred trained by Fausto Gutierrez, the 5-year-old daughter of Super Saver went to the lead right out of the gate, led the four others in the field up the backstretch while setting fractions of :23.49 and :46.76 for the half-mile and then opened up on them as they raced around the far turn.
Letruska clicked off the next split in a blistering 1:10.26 and drew off through the lane before romping home in 1:41.25 for the 1 1/16-miles test for older fillies and mares on the fast main track.
A pair of Brad Cox trainees, Bonny South, with Joel Rosario up, and 2020 Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks-winner and 2021 Grade 1 La Troienne-victress Shedaresthedevil, piloted by Florent Geroux, wound up second by 2 3/4-lengths and third by another 1 1/4-lengths, respectively.
Queen Nekia and Water White completed the order of finish. Swiss Skydiver and Valiance were scratched.
Jose Ortiz, who picked up the mount from injured brother Irad Ortiz, Jr, said Letruska would not be denied the lead.
“She was breaking a little bit slow, but she broke good today. I was able to put her on the lead and make the other horses chase me,” said Ortiz. “Florent, if he wanted to beat me, he had to run with me. She couldn’t keep up with me by the three-eighths pole. When I looked back and saw her three lengths behind me, I was very happy. It was very impressive. She’s a very nice mare.”
Rosario praised the runaway winner.
“I was in a good spot. She ran good and was running nice in the end. If you have the horse, you can get there. I think the winner was much the best,” Rosario said.
Shedaresthedevil’s rider Florent Geroux wasn’t going to alibi either.
“I went out there and got my butt kicked - simple as that,” he said. “That filly was superior. I was right beside her and at the half-mile, my filly couldn’t keep up with her. The day we were able to beat her [the Grade 2 Azeri in March at Oaklawn], she broke a step slow and maybe we got lucky. It could be the one turn. Maybe next time around two turns, she’ll be able to go with her.”
Letruska, sent off as the 6-5 favorite on the strength of her Grade 1 Apple Blossom win last time out, rewarded her backers with $4.40 and rewarded her trainer with his second American Grade 1 score.
“This is back-to-back Grade 1 wins,” said Gutierrez. “She showed her potential. This is a speed horse that can run long distances. Today, she confirmed what we saw in the Apple Blossom. She’s progressed with age and taking the blinkers off. She ran like a big horse.
“When she would run on the lead, she never saw the other horses. She has improved so much more. She has this class to her. She really likes to run,” he continued. “Now we need to focus on the Breeders’ Cup with the form that we have. These races are really tough. We’ll check how she does. She’s a very sound filly and I hope she continues like this.”
Live racing continues Sunday at Belmont Park with a nine-race card featuring the $150,000 Jersey Girl. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
Andrew Fegyveresi; Pat McKenna
NYRA Press Office
NYRA Press Office