Sunday, January 29, 2023

Letrusca Carries Mexico’s Hopes in Breeders’ Cup Race

DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) — Hailing from Mexico, where he has dominated racing, Fausto Gutierrez is in his first Breeders’ Cup with the best horse he’s ever had in his stables.

And the trainer is expecting big things from Letruska.

He is the starting 8-5 favorite for a $2 million distaff at Del Mar on Saturday.

“He is a horse with a very special mind,” he said. “He’s ready for it.”

There is also Gutierrez.

He is the best-known instructor in Mexico and is supported by client German Larrea Mota-Velasco, CEO of Grupo México, the country’s largest copper mining operation. According to Forbes, Mota-Velasco is estimated to be worth $14.9 billion.

Together Mota-Velasco and Gutierrez founded an American division at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida in 2019 to take a shot at the most prestigious race. Mota-Velasco, who runs as St. George’s Stable, bred Letruska in Kentucky. The 5-year-old mare is the daughter of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver.

Letrasca made his first seven career starts, including six at the Hipódromo de las Americas in Mexico City. Her winning streak was victories in the Clasico Esmeralda and Clasico Diamante, two legs of Mexico’s Triple Crown for the 3-year-old Phillies in 2019. She was named the divisional champion of that country.

“The real Mexican races are there with a lot of problems for quality especially for the horses,” Gutierrez said.

The difference between that level and the Breeders’ Cup is “like a kid playing in school and going to the major leagues,” he said.

Since relocating to South Florida, Letruska has been a well-travelled competitor, winning at Gulfstream, Oaklon, Saratoga, Belmont, Sam Houston, Churchill Downs and Keeneland.

Now, Letrusca ventures west for the first time to race in Del Mar, located about 40 miles north of the Mexican border.

She will take on Mexico’s hopes with her 10 rivals in the distaff.

“It’s a real dream, because no one could have imagined it could happen,” Gutierrez said. “When I had this horse in Mexico City, I understood that he was a special horse, a horse that could run fast. But being here is like another planet.”

Letruska has six wins this year, including four in the prestigious Grade 1 race. Her only loss was in the Azeri Stakes, when she finished second to Shedarthedevil’s head. They will have their match again on Saturday.

“When I decided on her campaign, I chose the race based on how she was doing, how she trains,” Gutierrez said. “Every day seems like she tells me, Tomorrow we can go into stronger competition.”

A win in the distaff would make Letruska worthy of consideration for Horse of the Year honors, Gutierrez believes.

“She traveled around the strongest races, different tracks,” he said. “He’s a consistent, solid horse. It’s very hard to ask for more.”

Brad Cox, who coached the opening 4-1 co-second choice Shedarthedevil, thinks otherwise.

“If Shedarestedevil Distaff wins, I think he should be the champion and the mare,” he said. “If she could beat Letrushka and beat her twice and get three Grade 1 (wins) a year, I don’t know how she wouldn’t be a champion and a mare.”


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