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Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl Set to Square off in the Apple Blossom

Author: Chris Adams
Published: Wednesday April 14, 2021

On Saturday, April 17, two of the best older horses in training will enter the Oaklawn starting gate looking to take the lead in the older female dirt division.

History of the Apple Blossom

The Apple Blossom has historically been an early prep for horses interested in the Breeder’s Cup Distaff at year’s end which is considered the top race for the older dirt female division of horse racing. 

The race has been won by some of the best fillies and mares in horse racing including Midnight Bisou, Zenyatta who won twice, and Azeri who was a three-time winner.

In 2010 the race was extended from 8.5 furlongs to 9 furlongs in hopes of drawing both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta into the race. Much like this year’s top pair, they were the two biggest female names in the sport, and arguably two of the most well-known horses in racing. If both horses had run the purse would have ballooned to $5 million as a special incentive for the connections. Unfortunately, following a loss at Fair Grounds prior to the Apple Blossom, Rachel’s connections withdrew her from consideration and the purse was returned to $500,000. The race was won by Zenyatta.

Four-year-old fillies have won 8 out of the last 10 runnings of the race. Swiss Skydiver is 4 while Monomoy Girl is 6.

Mike Smith will not be riding in the 2021 edition but has won the race a record 6 times in his career.

Trainer Bill Mott leads all trainers with 4 wins in the race but hasn’t won since 2014 with Close Hatches. That streak will continue this year as he does not have an entry in the race.

Significant Stories Heading Into The Apple Blossom

With a lot of money being tied up in breeding, horse fans often only get small glimpses into the true talent horses possess as the good ones are often rushed off the track into careers as stallions and broodmares. It can be extremely rare to see two greats of the game go head to head like Alydar and Affirmed in 1978 or Beholder and Songbird in the 2016 Breeder’s Cup. Saturday will give racing fans a chance to see one of those heavyweight matchups fans dream of as Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver are poised to square off in the 55th running of the Apple Blossom. 

Although this race has typically been used to get horses on the path to the Breeder’s Cup Distaff, the connections of Swiss Skydiver have shown that they are willing to race against the boys. Monomoy Girl’s connections have been less willing to outright say she will try her luck against the males in 2021, but also have left the door open to that possibility which means horse fans could see these two look for much more ambitious spots as the year progresses.

The Top Contenders

  • #2 Swiss Skydiver is trained by Kenny McPeek and ridden by Robby Albarado. The 2020 Preakness winner got her 2021 season off to a winning start by taking the Beholder Mile. The 2020 three-year-old female champion looks to put together another stellar run after an extremely impressive and aggressive campaign last year which included multiple races against colts. A victory in the Apple Blossom would mean turning the tables on last year’s Distaff champion who will be to the far outside in this race. 
  • #6 Monomoy Girl is trained by Brad Cox. Florent Geroux will have the call to ride her once again. She is a two-time Eclipse Award winner including last year as the best older female horse. In the final race of 2020, she beat her main rival in this race finishing first in the Breeder’s Cup Distaff. She is 14 for 16 lifetime and hasn’t failed to cross the finish line first in a race since the Golden Rod Stakes in November of 2017. 

The Rest of the Field

The rest of the group is definitely a couple notches below the headliners. Originally Letruska was rumored to be the only other challenger in this race. It is common in horse racing for racing secretaries to reach out to local connections to “fill a race.” Now the field is at six but it is hard to make much of a case beyond the top two.

  • #1 Another Broad will run for Steve Asmussen with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons. While the connections are a positive, the horse finished 6th behind Monomoy Girl in the Bayakoa last month.
  • #3 Letruska is a really nice horse, but frankly not at the level of her two competitors in this race. She is a 2-time grade 3 winner but has failed to prove she can win when stepping up against better company. 

  • #4 Chance To Shine finished a well-beaten 4th in the Bayakoa behind Monomoy Girl in her last start and would have to make a major move forward to win here. 
    • #5 Getridofwhatailesu goes out for the same trainer as Monomoy Girl. Most recently she finished third in the Azeri behind Shedaresthedevil and the #3 in this race, Letruska.

    Apple Blossom Betting Tips

    One of the keys to being a successful horseplayer is knowing which races offer value and which ones are better to watch as a fan. This race most likely falls into the latter category. Unless you can make a case for one of the outsiders to upset the major contenders this race is most likely devoid of value in the single-race wagers such as win, place, show, exacta, and trifectas.

    If you’re a player who wants some type of action in the race, your best bet is to play a small horizontal or multirace ticket (pick 3, pick 4, pick 5, or pick 6) and single the horse you like the most in this race. This way if you’re right you have knocked out at least half of the tickets that either preferred the other horse or that tried to use the top 2 as an insurance policy.

    Whether or not you play the race from a gambling perspective, the 2021 Apple Blossom is must-see TV for any fan of the game.

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