DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) — Coming from Mexico, where he has dominated racing, Fausto Gutierrez is at his first Breeders’ Cup with the best horse he’s ever had in his stable.
And the trainer is expecting big things from Letruska.
She’s the early 8-5 favorite for the $2 million Distaff on Saturday at Del Mar.
“She is a horse with a very special mind,” he said. “She is ready for this.”
Gutierrez is, too.
He’s the best-known trainer in Mexico and he’s backed by client German Larrea Mota-Velasco, the CEO of Grupo México, the country’s largest copper mining operation. Mota-Velasco is worth an estimated $14.9 billion, according to Forbes.
Together, Mota-Velasco and Gutierrez set up a U.S. division at the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida in 2019 to take a shot at the most prestigious races. Mota-Velasco, who races as St. George Stable, bred Letruska in Kentucky. The 5-year-old mare is a daughter of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver.
Letruska won her first seven career starts, including six at Hipódromo de las Américas in Mexico City. Among her winning streak were victories in the Clasico Esmeralda and Clasico Diamante, two legs of Mexico’s Triple Crown for 3-year-old fillies in 2019. She was named that country’s divisional champion.
“The actual Mexican races are with a lot of problems, especially for the quality for the horses,” Gutierrez said.
The gap between that level and the Breeders’ Cup is “like a child to play in school and go to the major leagues,” he said.
Since relocating to South Florida, Letruska’s been a well-traveled competitor, winning at Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Saratoga, Belmont, Sam Houston, Churchill Downs and Keeneland.
Now, Letruska ventures West for the first time to race at Del Mar, located about 40 miles north of the Mexican border.
She’ll take on 10 rivals in the Distaff, carrying the hopes of Mexico with her.
“This is a real dream, because nobody can think this could happen,” Gutierrez 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.”
Letruska has six wins this year, including four in prestigious Grade 1 races. Her only loss came in the Azeri Stakes, when she was second by a head to Shedaresthedevil. They’ll have a rematch on Saturday.
“When I decided her campaign, I selected the races depending on how she’s doing, how she trains,” Gutierrez said. “Every day it’s like she tells me, tomorrow we can go to stronger competition.”
A victory in the Distaff would make Letruska worthy of consideration for Horse of the Year honors, Gutierrez believes.
“She traveled around the most strong races, different tracks,” he said. “She’s a consistent, solid horse. It’s very difficult to ask more.”
Brad Cox, who trains early 4-1 co-second choice Shedaresthedevil, thinks otherwise.
“If Shedaresthedevil wins the Distaff, I think she should be champion filly and mare,” he said. “If she was able to beat Letruska and beat her twice and have three Grade 1s (wins) on the year, I don’t know how she wouldn’t be champion filly and mare.”
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