March 30, 2023

Letruska tops deep renewal of Personal Ensign

Letruska wins the Ogden Phipps Stakes (Elsa Lorieul/Coglianese Photos)

Personal Ensign S. (G1) — Race 10 (4:47 p.m. ET)

With dual champion Monomoy Girl out for the season, there is guaranteed to be a different winner of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). An automatic bid for that November fixture at Del Mar will be up for grabs in Saturday’s $600,000 Personal Ensign S. (G1) at Saratoga, with much of the attention focused on Letruska and Swiss Skydiver.

“This race very well could dictate who is the champion older filly and mare,” said trainer Kenny McPeek, whose Swiss Skydiver enters as an underdog against Letruska.

Letruska, who handed Monomoy Girl a defeat in a thrilling Apple Blossom H. (G1) in April, has been nearly perfect this term. Her three other stakes wins this year have been achieved more comfortably, including recent scores in the Ogden Phipps (G1) and Fleur de Lis (G2). Both of those races were also Breeders’ Cup Challenge preps.

“This year since the Apple Blossom, she’s run with the toughest fillies and mares in the division like Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl,” trainer Fausto Gutierrez said of Letruska. “The performance she gave in the Apple Blossom was no coincidence. You don’t beat horses like Monomoy Girl by coincidence.”

A distant third in the Apple Blossom was Swiss Skydiver, the 2020 champion three-year-old filly who opened her season account with a strong victory in the Beholder Mile (G1). However, an ankle infection flared up before the Apple Blossom. The filly later missed the Ogden Phipps with a fever as well as an intended start in the Shuvee (G3) due to a barn quarantine.

Swiss Skydiver prepped for the Personal Ensign in the Aug. 7 Whitney (G1), finishing a distant fourth behind the top males Knicks Go and Maxfield. 

“She needed the race. She hadn’t run since April,” McPeek said. “I think (the Shuvee) certainly would have been a better launching pad, but it was a good run. I’m sure she’s going to improve fitness-wise off that.”

As Time Goes By showed flashes of being very good in Southern California this season, but was well handled by Swiss Skydiver in the Beholder Mile and enters off a dull performance in the Clement L. Hirsch (G1) at Del Mar.

“I thought she was going to win at Del Mar, but she got away bad and got shuffled back and at Del Mar, if you get shuffled back early you have no chance,” trainer Bob Baffert said.

Also looking for a better run is Grade 2 heroine Bonny South, who was a spent force around the far turn in the Delaware H. (G2) last time as the 1-2 favorite. The upset winner of that race, Miss Marissa, re-opposes here.

The Shuvee winner, Royal Flag, steps up in class having never finished out of the money in 10 starts. Graceful Princess, a daughter of Tapit and 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, is more exposed, but comes off a victory in the Molly Pitcher (G3).

Harvey’s Lil Goil has some decent dirt form, but has developed into more of a turf specialist in the past year. Dunbar Road, the 2019 Alabama (G1) winner, hasn’t returned to that peak since.