Oscar Andrade Jr. piloted the first stakes winner in his young riding career when he guided Howard Nichols’ La Rusa to a surprising win at 23-1 odds in the Grade 3, $50,000 Miss Princess Handicap on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
Trained by Jose Flores, La Rusa broke nicely from the outside post 10 and took command shortly after on the way to a hard-fought head victory over multiple stakes winner Strawfinders Jessee. The victory was La Rusa’s fourth in 22 career starts and her first in a stakes race. The 4-year-old mare by Walk Thru Fire and out of the Corona Cartel mare Corona Fria covered the distance in :17.676 while earning $27,500 for the win.
“She’s had some bad luck,” Nichols said. “She’s gotten run over a few times. She didn’t want to break. We were about to give up so we decided to start training her a little different and give her another chance. She drew the outside and she came through for us. Maybe she still got some run in her for the rest of the year.”
La Rusa’s connections did not have any racing plans for the mare beyond the Miss Princess.
“We’ll probably going to regroup and come up with some plans for her,” Nichols added. “We had been a little disappointed, but she showed us tonight that she’s got the talent. She’ll get another chance in the next race. It’s been a good night. We’re okay.”
The California-bred could start in the Ivan Ashment Handicap on June 22 and the Matron Stakes on California Breeders Champions Night on July 28. Bred by Balgo Racing Team Inc., La Rusa has now earned $76,116 in her career. She was purchased for $40,000 at the 2016 Los Alamitos Equine Sale and as a 2-year-old she won trials to the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity and Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. She ran second to Matilda Czech in the 2017 California Breeders Freshman Stakes for Fillies.
Meanwhile, Andrade Jr., who is only 17-years-old, gave his mother, Elena Andrade, the best Mother’s Day present she could dream of with his first ever Quarter Horse stakes victory.
“I’m grateful that the owner gave me this opportunity,” Andrade Jr. said. “I’ve been riding this filly for her last outs. We had a little of trouble. We finally got it together and won a stakes. My mother said it was the best Mother’s Day present ever. I think the owners have given me chances with amazing horses. They’ve pretty much taught me. Instead of having me make errors, they’ve given me good horses to learn on and I’ve been correcting my mistakes from there.”
C.K. and Laurel Allen’s two-time stakes winner Strawfinders Jessee earned $11,250 for her runner-up effort in the Miss Princess. Second in the Denim N Diamonds earlier this year, Strawfinders Jessee has now finished in the money in 21 of 32 career starts. She’s earned $145,892 in her racing career. Madam Of Fire MV finished third and was followed by Love To Reason BR, Time To Leave, Just Walk By, Newport Coaster, Kiss N Air, Pick A Favorite and Zendaya.