News and STORIES

Royal Ship Claims Californian Stakes, Letruska Upsets Odds To Win Apple Blossom

Author: Ryan Knuppel
Published: Monday April 19, 2021
There was an enthralling weekend of Graded action over the past weekend, which was headlined by a fantastic performance in the Californian Stakes. There was also an excellent Apple Blossom Stakes renewal, as Letruska caused an upset by seeing off Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver. There was also a fifth successive victory for Silver State in the form of the Oaklawn Handicap.

Royal Ship Claims First Graded Success

Royal Ship for trainer Richard Mandella was one of the stars of the weekend, as he won his first Graded race in the United States. In the aftermath of the win, the trainer revealed that the Grade 2 Californian Stakes wasn’t the target that they were initially aiming for, as they instead were looking to enter a listed race. However, the trainer admitted that he was ultimately glad about the route that they ended up taking.

Mike Smith rode the winner over the weekend, as the four-year-old got up on the line to beat Country Grammer by a neck. The victory also saw Royal Ship complete the 1 1/8 miles in a time of 1:48.47, which also has given him his career-best speed figure of 108. Country Grammer made most of the running in the race, as he led for three-quarters of the race. However, Royal Ship was able to get the advantage in the closing stages.

Letruska Sees Off Two Champions

The shock of the weekend came in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap, as Letruska claims an unlikely win over Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl. It was an exciting contest at Oaklawn Park, with Letruska able to get her nose in front on the line to leave Monomoy Girl in second place. Trainer for Letrsuka, Fausto Gutierrez, claimed that the race was like watching a Hollywood movie, and he was fortunate that the story had a happy ending. The five-year-old took the lead in the race very early on and just had enough gas in the tank to get over the line.

Meanwhile, the finish was a tense one for all horses involved, with a photo finish needed to clarify that Letruska had got to the line before Monomoy Girl. The victory was achieved in a time of 1:43.14, which also saw the horse achieved a career-high speed figure of 102. The winning trainer was full of praise for jockey Luis Ortiz after the race, as he claimed that he gave her an excellent ride. It was also revealed that the long-term goal is the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, but Gutierrez refused to get drawn on the route that she will take to that race.

Silver State’s Dominance Continues

The Apple Blossom Handicap wasn’t the only Graded action on the card at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, as the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap also took place. Silver State won for the fifth race running to claim the first $1 million renewal of the race. The four-year-old bided her time in the race as she sat just behind the leaders before the final quarter of a mile. She came out of the chasing pack at that stage to claim a half-length victory over Fearlesss. The pre-race favorite for the Oaklawn Handicap was Express Train, who finished a further length behind.

Silver State finished the race in a time of 1:49.56. It would have made for a special victory for Willis Horton, who was also celebrating his 82nd birthday at the races on Saturday. Horton part-owns the horse with Winchell, and Steven Asmussen was pleased to give the owner a winner on his big day.

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