Only five fillies had managed to take home the blanket of black-eyed susans in the previous 144 runnings of the GI Preakness S. and the last to do so was Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra, who beat GI Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird by a length in the 2009 renewal. However, in 2020, a year of upsets and the unconventional, a filly took down the Derby winner yet again with Oaks runner-up Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil) getting the better of Derby hero Authentic (Into Mischief) in an epic stretch battle in this year's Preakness. In addition to being the final leg of the Triple Crown, rather than the middle jewel, the Preakness was also a “Win and You're In” for the GI Breeders' Cup Classic.
Let go at 11-1, Swiss Skydiver was away in good order from post four and settled on the fence in a joint third with Art Collector (Bernardini)–who beat Swiss Skydiver in her first try against males in the GII Toyota Blue Grass S. in July–and Pneumatic (Uncle Mo). The trio ran just a length off the front-running Bob Baffert duo of Authentic and Thousand Words (Pioneerof Nile), a late scratch on Derby day after flipping over in the paddock, through a moderate first quarter in :24.48 and a half-mile in :47.65.
Thousand Words threw in the towel at that juncture, leaving Authentic exactly where he wanted to be, alone on the lead. That was Swiss Skydiver's moment to strike. The chestnut filly took advantage of the opening on the rail left by Thousand Words, slipping through to challenge Authentic. She stuck her head in front as three-quarters went in 1:11.24 and turned for home with a half-length advantage. Swiss Skydiver and Authentic pulled well clear of the rest of the field in the lane, battling it out all the way to the wire in the grittiest of stretch duels. However, despite Authentic's best efforts, Swiss Skydiver refused to yield to the Derby winner, determinedly fending off her foe all the way to the wire to make history by a neck. It was 9 3/4 lengths back to 40-1 shot Jesus' Team (Tapiture) in third and Art Collector was just a head behind him in fourth.
“I'm just proud of Robby [Albarado],” said trainer Ken McPeek, who was winning hiss first Preakness and second Triple Crown race, having saddled Sarava to a 70-1 upset in the 2002 GI Belmont S. 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 continued, “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.”
When asked if he will take the free berth to the Classic or go back to running against females in the GI Breeders' Cup Distaff, McPeek said, “We can look at both races, I suppose. We got in for the Distaff after the Alabama, but I would say right now we would probably lean towards the older fillies and mares. But nothing set in stone and we don't have to make a decision today, I don't think.”
The stretch duel was reminiscent of another Triple Crown battle of the sexes involving Albarado and Authentic's pilot John Velazquez. In 2007, Velazquez was the one on the filly, piloting Rags to Riches to a narrow success over Preakness winners Albarado and Curlin in a thrilling battle at Big Sandy in the 2007 GI Belmont S. (video).
“I had an opportunity, a split second, to take advantage of the rail because Johnny [Velazquez on Authentic] was sitting off the fence there,” said Albarado. “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?' 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.”
“We had a good start, no trouble at all,” said Velazquez of beaten 3-2 chalk Authentic. “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.”
When asked his thoughts post-race, Baffert said, “I was hoping he was on the lead. We had to get the lead. He runs better on the lead. He likes to be out there running fast. 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. 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.”
The Makings of a Champion…
Purchased by McPeek for just $35,000 at Keeneland September, Swiss Skydiver opened her account with a 5 1/2-length graduation in her seven-panel unveiling at Churchill Downs Nov. 16. A close second over a sloppy mile beneath the Twin Spires just two weeks later, she could only manage fifth in Tampa'ss Gasparilla S. Jan. 18 and was third to early divisional leader Finite (Munnings) in the GII Rachel Alexandra S. Feb. 15.
Swiss Skydiver had her coming out party so to speak in the Mar. 28 GII Gulfstream Park Oaks, which she won in dominant fashion at odds of 9-1. Victorious again in the May 1 GIII Fantasy S. at Oaklawn, the Peter Callaghan colorbearer went wire-to-wire for a four-length romp in the GII Santa Anita Oaks June 6. Trying males for the first time in the July 11 Blue Grass, she was bested only by Art Collector, finishing a gallant second and rebounded with a decisive score in the 10-furlong GI Alabama S. at Saratoga Aug. 15. Dispatched as the second choice to Gamine (Into Mischief) in the rescheduled Oaks Sept. 4, the chestnut made a three-wide bid, but could not quite catch GI Juddmonte Spinster S. contender Shedaresthedevil, finishing second.
Swiss Skydiver is one of four black-type winners and two Grade I/graded winners along with Shedaresthedevil for former WinStar stallion Daredevil, who was exported to Turkey in November. Her dam Expo Gold was purchased by Blue Chip Thoroughbreds for $15,000 at the CTBA January Mixed Sale. Her first foal Is It Gold (Indygo Shiner) is set to sell in foal to Nyquist as part of the South Point Sales consignment at the upcoming Keeneland November Sale. Expo Gold's recent produce includes an unraced juvenile colt named Inspector General (Daredevil), who was purchased by Southern Racing for just $4,000 at KEESEP; and a yearling colt by Danzing Candy, who RNA'd for $145,000 at the recent Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase. The 12-year-old mare was barren when bred to Danzing Candy for 2020 and was bred to Catholic Boy this spring.
“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.” –Jose D'Angelo, trainer of Jesus' Team (third)
“I thought he ran fine. He didn't break quite as sharp as we hoped he would and that kind of had us playing catch-up a little bit. He was kind of in tight and it wasn't the best trip; it's not the trip we were hoping for. But we've got no excuse. The winner ran huge and we had our shot to get to them and just couldn't do it.” –Tom Drury, conditioner of Art Collector (fourth)
PREAKNESS S.-GI, $1,000,000, Pimlico, 10-3, 3yo, 1 3/16m, 1:53.28, ft.
1–SWISS SKYDIVER, 123, f, 3, by Daredevil
1st Dam: Expo Gold, by Johannesburg
2nd Dam: Clouds of Gold, by Strike the Gold
3rd Dam: Cloudy Colors, by Personal Flag
($35,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP). O-Peter J. Callahan; B-WinStar Farm,
LLC (KY); T-Kenneth G. McPeek; J-Robby Albarado. $600,000.
Lifetime Record: 11-6-3-1, $1,792,980. *1/2 to Miss Hot Legs
(Verrazano), SP, $151,620. Werk Nick Rating: A. Click for the
eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Authentic, 126, c, 3, Into Mischief–Flawless, by Mr. Greeley.
($350,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP). O-Spendthrift Farm LLC,
MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables LLC and Starlight
Racing; B-Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, LLC (KY); T-Bob
3–Jesus' Team, 126, c, 3, Tapiture–Golden Memories, by Suave.
($30,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP). O-Grupo Seven C Stable; B-Pamela P.
Gartin (KY); T-Jose Francisco D'Angelo. $110,000.
Margins: NK, 9 3/4, HD. Odds: 11.70, 1.50, 40.90.
Also Ran: Art Collector, Max Player, Excession, Mr. Big News, Thousand Words, Ny Traffic, Pneumatic, Liveyourbeastlife. Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.