HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, April 17, 2021 — Racing fans who do not appreciate the history of the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap do not appreciate the history of this Midwest classic and can’t really identify themselves as fans of the sport.
Yes, I, too, was surprised to that meaningful handicaps that have a significant impact on the highest levels of the sport still exist. Good to know that the position of Racing Secretary extends beyond just making races go.
The Apple Blossom has been won by many of the sport’s all-time great females. From Susan’s Girl (1975) to Bayakoa (1989) to Paseana (1992-1993) to Azeri (2002-2003-2004), Zenyatta (2008, 2010) to 2021 Hall of Fame nominee Havre de Grace, it makes the grade of American classic.
It is rare, however, when two budding Hall of Famers clash. Fate did not permit Zenyatta to face Rachel Alexandra, who was retired before a special edition with a $5 million purse could take place. But with time good things do come.
Since Susan’s Girl, victory in the Apple Blossom, first staged as a handicap in 1969 and elevated to a Grade 1 in 1982, has led to 11 championships, including Horse of the Year Azeri, the only three-time winner in the event’s history. And this doesn’t include Saturday’s two principal rivals.
Tomorrow, Monomoy Girl will be challenged by Swiss Skydiver going a mile and a sixteenth at Oaklawn Park. The flying in the ointment is rain today into tomorrow morning. Will it dry out significantly by post time, scheduled for 7:09 am EDT?
If there is a good deal of moisture in the surface, it’s advantage Monomoy Girl, who won her season’s debut over a sealed sloppy track, her first ever run in Hot Springs.
Monomoy Girl purposefully raced 3 to 4 wide throughout, Florent Geroux taking advantage of the better going while applying pressure, finishing on the crown of the wet track, powering away late. While improving her lifetime mark to (16) 14-2-0, she improved her wet-track form to 3-for-3.
Swiss Skydiver, it turns out, loves to fly, winning seven races at six different tracks. Showing none of the keenness demonstrated by ‘Monomoy’ in her first 2021 start, she rated under beautiful handling from Robby Albarado, found an ideal split into the lane, and sprinted off in a strong season’s debut.
Coming from the Grade 1 Beholder Mile, she stretches out a sixteenth to her best trip (3-for-4). She drops two pounds from 124 to 122 while ‘Monomoy’ picks up five to 124. Both are training very well and the timing for each is spot on.
However, we’re looking to upset both with Letruska (4-1). Unlucky to lose her latest, a rival caught a flyer out of the gate, forcing Letruska to play the waiting game. That’s what she did, but consequently was forced to lose ground throughout and lost the photo.
Subsequent to the Azeri, trainer Fausto Gutierrez drilled her a half mile twice, her latest a bullet 47.20, faster than 79 other workers at the distance. She loses Rosario to other commitments but picks up America’s leading rider, Irad Ortiz Jr.
Further, she is in receipt of six pounds from the legendary highweight and four pounds from the 2020 filly champion. We’ll take whatever value offered on the former Mexican queen at early line odds.
HOT SPOTS at KEENELAND
Maiden Allowances, Race 3
6-LET THEM EAT CAKE (3-1) to win at 5-2 or greater
Allowances, Race 8
3-SOUTH BEND (5-2) to win at early line odds or greater
HOT SPOTS at OAKLAWN PARK
Maiden Allowances, Race 8
6-CRYO (3-1) to win at 2-1 or greater; instant double with 1-Silver State (4-1) and 3-Fearless (7-2) [6 // 1.3]
G2 Oaklawn Park Handicap
Exacta Box 1.2.3
Trifecta Wheel: 1.3 // 1.2.3 // 22.214.171.124 [2-Express Train, 6-Owendale]