Gutierrez: Letruska Poised For Big Effort In Distaff, Thanks To Lessons Learned In 2020 - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Gutierrez: Letruska Poised For Big Effort In Distaff, Thanks To Lessons Learned In 2020

Letruska with trainer Fausto Gutierrez, at Del Mar before the 2021 Breeders’ Cup

Trainer Fausto Gutierrez is having his most successful year in the United States, and it's mostly thanks to stable star Letruska, who this week will carry the trainer to his first Breeders' Cup as she takes aim at the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Gutierrez revealed at a press conference Nov. 1 that he had first dreamt of a trip to the Breeders' Cup with the filly in 2020, when she picked up a win in the Added Elegance Stakes at Gulfstream in June. After she put in a disappointing effort in her Grade 1 debut in the Ballerina however, he had to change course.

Gutierrez has dominated Thoroughbred racing in Mexico alongside top owner St. George Stable, which owns Letruska. He'd made a brief foray into American racing in the 1990s, when Hipodoromo de las Americas was closed and he had no choice but to bring some of his horses to Texas. He also sent runners to the Clasico Del Caribe, which came to Gulfstream Park in 2017 (readers may remember his runners Kukulkan and Jala Jala in that race series). Last year, St. George's German Larrea decided to experiment with a small American string, which Gutiererz bases at Palm Meadows. While Gutierrez has more than 100 horses in Mexico, he told Thoroughbred Daily News in 2020 the American contingent would be much smaller, around 15 horses.

This year, he has saddled 60 starters in the States with 16 winners and earnings of over $2.2 million, thanks largely to Letruska.

Now five years old, the daughter of Super Saver and Successful Appeal mare Magic Appeal is nearly perfect in her 2021 season, picking up wins in the G1 Spinster, Personal Ensign, Ogden Phipps and Apple Blossom. She's missed having an undefeated year by just a head in a tough beat in the Grade 2 Azeri to Shedaresthedevil.

“When I decided her campaign, I selected the races depending on how she's doing, how she trains,” he said. “Every day it's like she tells me, tomorrow we can go to stronger competition.”

Gutierrez said Monday that in hindsight, he made a few mistakes in plotting her 2020 campaign. Looking back, he said he entered her in at least one Oaklawn race he could have skipped, feeling pressure to get a start in while he could as the COVID-19 pandemic threw transportation plans and condition books into the air. He said he also broke with his usual racing schedule for her, sending her to the G3 Shuvee at Saratoga after her disappointing run in the Ballerina because he didn't want to leave the track totally empty-handed; now he wonders if the races coming three weeks apart were too much.

But good things came out of that learning year, too – Gutierrez said he realized in her G2 Beldame loss that she did not need blinkers. He thought the filly seemed distracted and worried by Horologist, and actually needed to see her competitors better. Since removing them, she has won all but one race.

So far, Gutierrez said he is happy with the way Letruska has made the trip. She had a 15-hour journey but came off the van at Del Mar her usual self.

“After I saw last Saturday how she came out of the van and the attitude she had, the next day I felt very comfortable,” he said. “I saw this horse is ready for this competition. She is a horse with a very special mind. She is ready for this.”

Although he's expecting big things from the mare, Gutierrez also acknowledged that just to make it to the Breeders' Cup is a tremendous accomplishment.

“This is a real dream, because nobody can think this could happen,” he said. “When I had this horse in Mexico City I understood she's a special horse, a horse who could run fast. But to be here, it's like another planet.

“I try to do the best work. I don't have a lot of horses with this quality. I just have one. Sometimes I feel like Rambo – I have to go with all the other ones, horses who have seven or eight horses [like this.]”

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