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HOT SPRINGS, AR – Superstars Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver are set to throw down in what could be the race of the year so far, Saturday’s $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
The event will go as race 11 with a post time of 6:09 PM CT while sharing the card with the Oaklawn Handicap (G2), which will go off as race 9.
Oaklawn Handicap Preview: Express Train Makes Next Stop
It’s hard to find any flaws in the Brad Cox-trained Monomoy Girl, who’s coming off a solid 2021 debut victory over this track in the Bayakoa Stakes (G3). She has been perhaps the best horse in training over the last few years and has only crossed the wire behind another horse once in 16 career starts. Regular jockey Florent Geroux will have the mount again, breaking from post 6.
“We drew outside, which in Monomoy’s case is probably a good thing,” Cox said. “She always seems to draw outside. It’s crazy. I don’t think post or size of field is going to have a lot to do with it.”
The “challenger” to the favorite is a worthy one, with Swiss Skydiver accomplishing one of the all-time great 3-year-old filly campaigns last year that included beating the boys in the Preakness Stakes (G1). She opened her 2021 season with a tremendous victory in the Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park, which shows she’s in great form heading into this challenge. Robby Albarado will be aboard when she breaks from post 2.
“It should be a great race,” said Kenny McPeek, who trains Swiss Skydiver. “It kind of reminds me of when I brought Take Charge Lady here to face Azeri in the (2003) Apple Blossom. “We got beat like an inch. I just hope the outcome is different this time.”
Monomoy Girl Strong As Ever In Bayakoa
Trying to play the role of spoiler will be the speedy Letruska, who drew post 3 and will have Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle. She opened up her 2021 season winning the Sam Houston Ladies Classic (G3) before narrowly missing last time out in the Azeri Stakes (G2) over this track. She seems to have the most early speed in the race.
The full field from the rail out: Another Broad, Swiss Skydiver, Letruska, Chance to Shine, Getridofwhatailesu, and Monomoy Girl.
“It’s great for racing,” Cox said of the matchup. “I think from a national standpoint, aside from the Derby preps, it’s definitely the biggest race we’re probably going to watch for the first quarter of the year, first third of the year.”
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#6 Monomoy Girl – Simply put, this mare is one of the greatest we’ve ever seen. She was a champion 3-year-old, then missed an entire year of racing, and yet she returned to become last year’s Champion Older Female after an undefeated season ended in another Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) title. She’s crossed the line first in an amazing 15 of 16 career starts, so it’s hard to go against her until someone proves to be better. That is the task her challengers are faced with here, and though Swiss Skydiver has the best chance of doing so, we’ll keep sticking with the champion until proven otherwise.
#2 Swiss Skydiver – After her historic 3-year-old campaign, she returned to the track in 2021 with great success in the Beholder Mile, and her connections immediately targeted this race and this rival after the dust settled, showing great confidence. They think she’s ready to topple the favorite, but it’s just hard to pick her to beat Monomoy Girl, especially after she couldn’t match up at the Breeders’ Cup.
#3 Letruska – From a pace standpoint, this horses has a chance to take the field gate to wire. It’s unlikely either of the big favorites lets her get too far away, but if they do, then she might get brave on the front end. She probably won’t win, but there’s a chance that her pace advantage could lead to her finishing second.
“I know it’s a tough race, but this is the perfect spot to try,” said trainer Fausto Gutierrez. “We don’t have anything to lose. Any of these horses have to run their best race to win. Of course, Letruska, but Swiss Skydiver needs her best effort, and Monomoy, too.”
Kentucky Derby Top 20 Rankings 4/14/21
NONE – It’s hard to see anyone pull an upset in what should be an absolute showdown between the top two.
#5 Getridofwhatailesu – She won the Pippin Stakes to kick off her season before running a solid third last time out in the Azeri. Those races show that she has some talent, but this is a very tough assignment.
#4 Chance to Shine – This mare has quietly had a decent 2021 at Oaklawn Park, finishing fourth in 2 straight stakes against good horses. She probably can’t turn the tables here, but at least she’s shown solid consistency.
#1 Another Broad – It’s been a while since we’ve seen her win and this is shaping up to be her toughest test yet. It’s hard to make a case for her in this spot, no matter the angle.
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