Oh yes she did! Swiss Skydiver becomes sixth filly to win Preakness

October 3, 2020

By MB Kalinich

McPeek trainee runs the second fastest Preakness punching her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Classic

After a bit of ambivalence entering the classic, trainer Kenny McPeek was elated to see his filly Swiss Skydiver to battle the Kentucky Derby champ Authentic to the finish line to give him his first Preakness win.

The Preakness was a “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race. The victory has given Swiss Skydiver and McPeek an open invitation to run against the boys again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7.

“I’m just proud of Robby. We had to call him in at the last minute. He did a great job. I’m really proud of him, her, [owner] Peter Callahan – I wish he was here. This is just a real honor to be around a horse like this. This is a special moment,” McPeek emotionally stated.

“It was a genius move by Robby coming up the fence. He saw a hole and went right at it. It felt like she took him there. If he waited, she would take him there. I think she should have won the Oaks too. Maybe if we stay inside, we win that one too, but it is what it is. She’s just really neat to be around. Robby and I have had a great week. We’ve been getting on her, walking her together, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner together. This is a lifetime experience for both of us and we hope we’re back.”

Trainer Kenny McPeek congratulates jockey Robby Albarado on his expert ride.

The 145th Preakness Stakes was held without fans in Baltimore, Md. after a four month wait due to COVID-19 closings. But under a crystalline azure fall sky the race was an exciting testament to Pimlico Race Course’s 150th year.

In front of limited connections of owners, trainers and guests, the eleven 3-year-olds lined up on a fast, dry track for a good start for all. Thousand Words took the lead and set a slow pace with an opening quarter of :24.48. Authentic joined his stablemate as the pair raced head to head.

Swiss Skydiver stalked the leaders through a slow half of :47.65 as Authentic went to the lead. Pneumatic stayed with the frontrunners until the top of the stretch when he faded. Art Collector, Ny Traffic, Thousand Words and Jesus’ Team followed three to four lengths off the pace to the 3/4 pole when Swiss Skydiver with Robby Albarado up threaded a gap and challenged Authentic. The two accelerated leaving the field 10 lengths behind as the filly bested the colt at the wire by a neck.

“I had an opportunity, a split second, to take advantage of the rail because Johnny was sitting off the fence there. I made a conscious decision on the backside. ‘It’s give or take now. Do I make that move now or do I wait to see if they come back to me?’” Albarado said with an excited chuckle.

“She’s been doing extremely well. Kenny’s been doing a great job. I’ve been around her all week. I figure she knows where she’s at, she’s in her surroundings. I said let me try and make this Jerry Bailey move and win.”

Swiss Skydiver has had nine starts in 2020 at nine different tracks with five wins, two second and a third place. She now has wins in five graded stakes including two Grade I – the Alabama at Saratoga and today’s Preakness.

Owned by Peter Callahan Swiss Skydiver has now won and placed in nine graded stakes in her career with earnings of $1.8 million. With Callahan unable to be in Baltimore, Sherri McPeek, Kenny’s wife, accepted the Woodlawn Vase replica on his behalf.

“[Peter Callahan] is always there. He’s supportive and he truly, truly loves horse racing. So to Peter Callahan and to horse racing,” Sherri McPeek said as she joyously raised the trophy.

The daughter of Daredevil out of Johannesburg mare Expo Gold was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm. Kenny McPeek purchased Swiss Skydiver in 2018 for Peter Callahan out of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. They paid a bargain price of $35,000.

Swiss Skydiver became the sixth filly to win the Preakness. Her predecessor were Flocarline (1903), Whimsical (1906), Rhine Maiden (1915), Nellie Morse (1924) and Rachel Alexandra (2009).

The buzz of the week had been Bob Baffert’s dynamic duo of Authentic and Thousand Words. Watching on the big screen from the infield, the Hall of Fame trainer was understandably disappointed to miss a record Preakness win by a neck.

Bob Baffert lamented, “I was hoping he was on the lead. But he got beat. He had the whole stretch to get by her. She ran a gallant race. He’s a free-running horse and likes to be on the lead. I saw he wasn’t on the lead and was struggling a little bit.”

“I thought I was going to be on the lead. [Jockey John Velazquez] said that it didn’t work out and he was rating him today. He doesn’t like rating. He wants to go fast.”

Baffert also noted Swiss Skydiver saying, “That’s a good filly. He had every chance to get by her. He got beat. He just couldn’t get by her. She dug in. She’s tough.’

“We had to get the lead. He runs better on the lead. He likes to be out there running fast. When I saw 24 [seconds] that’s really slow for him. That’s how he won the Derby, get him running. But he said when he went to pick it up he didn’t have it today. That’s why I like to come back in two weeks.”

Regarding Thousand Words, “He was right there in a good spot, but he’s a funny horse. He’s in and out.”

John Velazquez commented on his second-place trip on Authentic. “We had a good start, no trouble at all. In the first turn we got by Art Collector. By the backstretch, I tried to open up, but he just stood there and Swiss Skydiver came to him. I tried to get him rolling again, but he just stayed with that other horse from the half-mile pole to the wire.”

The purse for the 145th Preakness had been reduced from $1.5 million to $1 million this year. The winner received $600,000. Second place was awarded $200,000 and third $110,000.

At 7-1 Swiss Skydiver paid $25.40, $8.40 and $5.80 while the favorite Authentic paid $3.60 and $3.20. Jesus’ Team paid a profitable $12.20 for his very game performance placing in his first graded stakes. Final time of the race was 1:53.28 for the 1 3/16 miles race. Swiss Skydiver’s time was the second fastest Preakness ever run just off Secretariat’s 1973 record of 1:53 flat.

Jose D’Angelo, trainer of Jesus’ Team, was quite thrilled with his third place finish. “I feel very excited and I’m proud of my team and their work with Jesus’ Team. He’s really improved every day. I am very sure that he is going to be a great horse in the United States. I’m very happy for the result in this race, the Preakness Stakes, one of the most important races for 3-year-olds in this amazing country.”

“I don’t know really what our next race will be, but maybe the Breeders’ Cup, maybe go to Florida to prepare him for the Pegasus. The horse ran so good and he came back good to the barn.”

“I’m very, very proud of him. He’s like a kid, you know. Every day with him, we’re very proud.”

Jesus’ Team’s jockey Jevian Toledo, was equally impressed. “He ran big. He’s a really nice horse. I got a really nice trip, I can’t complain. He gave me everything he had. We had no excuse. The other two horses were just much the best, but he was running all the way to the wire. It’s exciting; third in the Preakness. He’s a nice horse, a beautiful horse. He tries all the time.”

145th Preakness Stakes Replay

The order of finish for the 145th Preakness Stakes

1. Swiss Skydiver

2. Authentic

3. Jesus’ Team

4. Art Collector

5. Max Player

6. Excession

7. Mr. Big News

8. Thousand Words

9. Ny Traffic

10. Pneumatic

11. Liveyourbeastlife

Watch the post race press conference.

Photo: Swiss Skydiver battling Authentic to win the 145th Preakness. Trainer Kenny McPeek congratulates jockey Robby Albarado on his expert ride.

Credit: Maryland Jockey Club

“Updated 10/4/2020 7:00 AM”

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MariBeth Kalinich, Senior Editor, Past the Wire

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