SWISS SKYDIVER FINE AFTER EPIC PREAKNESS WIN
After walking Swiss Skydiver a few turns in the Preakness Stakes Barn at Pimlico Sunday morning, trainer Ken McPeek was still trying to wrap his mind around the 3-year-old filly’s sensational triumph in Saturday’s 145 Preakness Stakes (G1) under a heads-up ride from jockey Robby Albarado..
“I should probably retire today,” McPeek said, “because I don’t think it can get higher than this. I really don’t. She’s beat so many odds. I’m beyond proud of her, proud of Robby and everyone who’s handled her. It’s been a real team effort. I have some unbelievable people who work for me that help handle the details.”
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Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver not only beat the boys in the Preakness, the daughter of Daredevil registered the second-fastest running time in the storied history of Maryland’s signature Triple Crown race. The 1:53.28 clocking for her thrilling 1 3/16-mile tour of the Pimlico oval was second only to 1973 Triple Crown champion Secretariat’s 1:53 stakes-record time.
“It was surreal,” McPeek said. “It’s still surreal.”
Swiss Skydiver defeated Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Authentic by a resolute neck to become the sixth filly to win the Preakness and first since Rachel Alexandra got the better of Derby winner Mine That Bird in 2009. After saving ground on the first turn and into the backstretch aboard the McPeek trainee, Albarado made a decisive move that propelled the filly into the lead heading into the far turn, easing his mount around tiring pacesetter Thousand Words before darting back to the rail inside Authentic. Swiss Skydiver and Authentic dueled around the turn and through the stretch with the 11-1 filly gamely holding off the 3-2 favorite to the wire.
The Grade 1 victory aboard Swiss Skydiver was Albarado’s first since 2017, as well as his first graded-stakes win of 2020. The veteran jockey, who has ridden the winners of more than 5,200 races and $220 million in purses, has experienced slowing business the past few years but showed the racing world that he can still win the big ones.
“The thing about it was that we took a negative and made it into a positive. We didn’t have a rider until Saturday night (Sept. 26),” said McPeek, who was left without a rider when Tyler Gaffalione opted out. “I called Robby right away and I said, ‘Here’s what it is going to take for you to ride her. We’re going to offer the mount to Mike Smith and wait for his agent to call me back. If his agent says no then I’m going to present to the owner that you’re going to ride her. He said, ‘OK, let me know, let me know.’
We waited for Mike Smith’s agent to return our offer, but once I got confirmation he couldn’t ride her, I called Robby and said, ‘You’re on.’ I said, ‘But here’s what we’re going to do. We’re flying up together; we’re going to get on her all week.’ I think it was fortuitous because he got on her every day and got to know her. He spent time with her and, every day, he got more confident in her. You need a rider with confidence because if she takes you there, she’ll win. We pulled it off.”
Swiss Skydiver is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs Monday morning to prepare for a start on the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup program at Keeneland in either the Distaff (G1) or the Classic (G1).
“I like the mile-and-a-quarter of the Classic, but the Distaff, today, is probably the wiser move. But the farther she goes the better,” McPeek said. “We can sit on it. We won’t make a rash decision.”
Swiss Skydiver entered the Preakness with four graded-stakes victories against 3-year-old fillies, including the Alabama (G1) at Saratoga, and second-place finishes in the Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland against the boys and Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill. Her victory in the final leg of the reshuffled 2020 Triple Crown puts her in the discussion for Horse of the Year, McPeek said.
“I think you have to make a case for her. I mean, she’s run every month of the year except April, and she ran at the end of March and early May. You have to make a case for her. She’s entertained coast to coast, north, south, east, west,” he said. “She’s amazing. She’s not even tired today. She’s a throwback horse.”
PREAKNESS NOTES Bob Baffert, trainer of Authentic, had praise for the victor. “After all of that, I’m still surprised he just could not get by her,” Baffert said. “She just was game. It was one of those things where I said, ‘All right, come on, get by her.’ They were running, they were leaving the field. It was, ‘Wow, did that really just happen?’ But he showed up and he ran. The other horse (Thousand Words) he was sort of spinning. He just wasn’t running at all.”
Art Collector, off as the second choice, was a distant — and disappointing — fourth, just behind Jesus’ Team. “I didn’t see a whole lot for excuses. For whatever reason he just didn’t quite have that normal turn of foot that we see from him,” Tommy Drury, Jr., trainer of Art Collector, said. “Around the first turn it looked like Brian tried to kind of get out and couldn’t quite get that done. Down the backside he tried to take the same spot that Swiss Skydiver took and unfortunately didn’t have enough horse to get there. No excuses at this point. We’re going to take our hat off to the filly. She ran great and I’m thrilled for Kenny. We’ll get back home and regroup and figure out where we want to go next.”
Jose D’Angelo, trainer of longshot show horse Jesus’ Team, was happy with the outcome.
“I’m very happy for my horse and my team. My horse ran good. He ran a fast time in the stretch,” D’Angelo said. “Our next plan….maybe the Breeders’ Cup.”
Jevian Toledo, who rode Jesus’ Team to a third-place finish, had the best outcome of the four local riders with Preakness mounts. Jesus’ Team was 40-1 at post time.
Of the others: Sheldon Russell and Excession (56-1) finished sixth; Horacio Karamanos and Ny Traffic (19-1) were ninth; and Trevor McCarthy and Liveyourbeastlife (34-1) finished eleventh…