2022 Apple Blossom Handicap Betting Odds and Contenders
In the last decade, the Apple Blossom Handicap, a Grade 1 event now worth $1 million, has become the centerpiece of racing for older fillies and mares outside of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). It is the first target and only the second Grade 1 for many mares on the season, and some of the very best in recent memory have won it: Zenyatta, Havre de Grace, Plum Pretty, Forever Unbridled, and Midnight Bisou.
The 2022 Apple Blossom Handicap will be an event to remember. Though the race only drew a field of five horses, four of the five entrants are already Grade 1 winners, including the last two winners of the Apple Blossom! 2020 winner Ce Ce cut back to sprinting in 2021, and was even named the year’s champion sprinter! But, she stretched out again to win the Azeri (G2) last month. In 2021, Letruska nosed out the great Monomoy Girl to win this race. She shined all season long, earned the Eclipse for champion older dirt female, and returns to defend her title.
The other two Grade 1 winners in the field defeated fellow three-year-old fillies at the top level last year and will try to earn their first graded victory against older ones. Clairiere romped in the Cotillion (G1) at Parx last September. Maracuja added another chapter to Saratoga’s legend as the graveyard of favorites, overhauling Kentucky Oaks winner Malathaat by a head in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) in July of 2021.
Miss Imperial, a multiple-stakes winner at Assiniboia Downs who has hit the board in three allowance races at Oaklawn this meet, completes the field.
Apple Blossom Odds
The 2022 Apple Blossom Handicap field has been officially announced, drawing six exceptional runners. The 1 1/16 mile—or eight and a half furlong—contest drew a select and classy field. This is the draw for the 2022 Apple Blossom including post positions, names, trainers, and morning line odds. You can place your bets and find sign-up bonuses on TVG or FanDuel Racing.
Trainer: Rob Atras
Trainer: Fausto Gutierrez
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
4. Miss Imperial
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
5. Ce Ce
Trainer: Michael McCarthy
Keep in mind that the morning line odds are just an estimate. The actual prices stand to fluctuate on race day, as people place their bets for the race. Letruska should go off favored, but expect something closer to even money on the defending champion distaffer.
Looming unexpectedly on a major road through Hot Springs, Arkansas, the grandstand at Oaklawn Park shrouds the beloved track within. The party town is centered around the track, with a festival feeling prominent during the whole meet, even through winter. Oaklawn Park’s sprawling green infield is a popular destination for race fans, and the glassed-in seating area gives a comfortable, warm space to watch the action.
Oaklawn Park opened in 1905 but has only recently become one of the premier tracks in American racing. Great horses such as Curlin, Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones, and Zenyatta have competed there, as well as American Pharoah on his way to Triple Crown glory in 2015.
Apple Blossom Prep Results
The Apple Blossom has a few prep races at Oaklawn Park, including the Pippin Stakes over a mile in January, the Bayakoa (G3) in February, and the Azeri (G2) in March.
In 2022 Coach took the Pippin and Miss Bigly won the Bayakoa, though neither returns in the Apple Blossom this year. Ce Ce tuned up in the Azeri, and shapes as one of the leading contenders for the Apple Blossom.
There are other races around the country that historically produce runners for this race, including the Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita and the Royal Delta (G3) at Gulfstream Park. Likely favorite Letruska took her prep in the Royal Delta in February and won it impressively.
Apple Blossom Contenders
- Letruska: The defending Apple Blossom champion looked as strong as ever in the Royal Delta, her six-year-old debut, on February 26. She easily dispatched her foes there, looking like the same speedy and classy mare who won six races and an Eclipse last year. She looks like the controlling speed on paper, meaning she will be tough to catch if she breaks well.
- Ce Ce: This six-year-old mare, who won the Apple Blossom at age four, continues to surprise. It looked like she was a confirmed sprinter after her championship season at five, but she has returned to two turns and looked strong in the Azeri. She may find it tough to reel in Letruska in the lane assuming Letruska breaks well, but is tactical enough to be in range and fast enough to make a race of it.
- Clairiere: She made her four-year-old debut with an allowance romp at Fair Grounds, showing that she has returned in good form. However, given her closing style, she is hoping that a pace battle unfolds. Miss Imperial is almost certainly not fast enough to take it to Letruska early, meaning Clairiere’s most likely result is a late run for a placing.
- Maracuja: She won her four-year-old debut against allowance foes at Oaklawn on April 1, but this is a far tougher field. As an off-pace type with some deep stamina, her best bet against top-class horses is to come running late as others tire. In a short field going just a mile and a sixteenth, this may not suit her strengths.
- Miss Imperial: This Maclean’s Music mare is honest as the day is long, with 14 wins in 32 career starts. However, all of her stakes-level form comes in minor stakes at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, races with purses too low to grant black type. She has tactical speed and has been competitive in Oaklawn allowances, but her best chance will be to try and steal the race if Letruska does not break well.
Apple Blossom Handicap Past Winners Past Performances
Past winners of the Apple Blossom Handicap include some of the great fillies and mares of all time. Susan’s Girl won it in 1975, and Bold ‘n’ Determined did in 1981. Azeri won it three times from 2002 to 2004, and is now honored with a race named after her at Oaklawn. Zenyatta won it in 2008 and 2010; in the former, she was just being established as a good horse in the division, in the latter, she was working on becoming an all-time great.
In the last few years, the winners have been as good as ever. Midnight Bisou in 2019 was in the midst of a stellar racing career, and in 2020 Ce Ce won it by just a head over Ollie’s Candy. In 2021, eventual champion Letruska put herself among the top ranks of dirt mares by beating the great Monomoy Girl.
Look at horses who won graded stakes races in California or Florida, or were running well in New York or Louisiana. Check their speed figures versus their local counterparts. Though in previous years the Oaklawn-based horses tended to struggle, more recently the big purses at Oaklawn have drawn some true divisional leaders and the local horses have been just as good as the shippers.
Post Time for the Apple Blossom Handicap
The Apple Blossom Handicap will have a post time of 2:18 pm local Central time, which is 3:18 pm Eastern, and 12:18 pm Pacific. It goes as the fifth race on a 12-race card.
Apple Blossom Undercard
The card features two other stakes races. The eighth race is the Oaklawn Stakes, a nine-furlong race for three-year-olds that awards its winner the lion’s share of a $150,000 purse as well as an automatic berth to the Preakness Stakes. The day’s 11th race is the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2), a race that drew Grade 1 winners Idol and Super Stock as well as hickory local horse Rated R Superstar. Some of the best horses who have won the Oaklawn Handicap over the years include Snow Chief, Cigar, and Best Pal amongst others.
Apple Blossom Handicap FAQ
Q: When is the Apple Blossom Handicap?
A: Saturday, April 23, 2021 at 2:18 pm Central.
Q: Where is the Apple Blossom Handicap?
A: It takes place at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, about 90 minutes outside Little Rock.
Q: Which trainer has the most wins in the Apple Blossom Handicap?
A: Bill Mott has trained the winner four times, including his most recent in 2014 with Close Hatches.
Q: Who is the favorite for the Apple Blossom Handicap?
A: Letruska, the 2021 champion older dirt mare, is expected to be favored.
Q: Who is the best Apple Blossom Handicap jockey?
A: Mike Smith has won the race six times, but not since 2010 on the legendary Zenyatta.
Q: Who won the Apple Blossom Handicap in 2021?
A: Letruska won the Apple Blossom in 2021. She will try to win for the second time, as well as 2020 winner Ce Ce.