AND THEN THERE WAS SWISS SKYDIVER
We all know that 2020 has been just a little bit different in many ways. Considering all that, was it really a huge surprise when Swiss Skydiver won the 145th running of the Preakness?
Throughout this glorious Thoroughbred season, trainers all across the country have been forced to call an audible or two as race rescheduling and track closures have been the norm. Picking the right spot to run is always tough, but this year it has been more of a challenge than ever.
When Kenny McPeek decided to send his prized filly, Swiss Skydiver to the Preakness, some may have wondered what he was thinking. Earlier in the year she had looked like a million dollars in winning the Gulfstream Park Oaks, Fantasy Stakes, and Santa Anita Oaks. After finishing second in the rescheduled Bluegrass Stakes in her first try against the boys, this daughter of Daredevil scored impressively in the Alabama Stakes. But a second place finish in the Kentucky Oaks on September 4 had some questioning this filly that was purchased as a yearling for $35,000.
Now the final leg of the Triple Crown series, the Preakness presented quite the challenge. Kentucky Derby winner Authentic was there along with the highly regarded Bluegrass Stakes winner Art Collector. Ten male challengers and a mile and three sixteenths stood between Swiss Skydiver and the record books. The last filly to beat the boys was Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Before that it was Nellie Morse back in 1924. So why would we think Swiss Skydiver could do it?
That question was answered a minute and 53 seconds after the gates opened. A versatile runner with plenty of speed and lots of determination, Swiss Skydiver executed her game plan to perfection. Jockey Robby Albarado stalked the early pace and then shot through an opening and seized the lead at the three quarter mile mark. Turning for home it became a two horse race as Kentucky Derby Champ Authentic drew even with the fabulous filly. And that’s where she really strutted her stuff.
As these two entered the race’s final furlong, the battle continued. Waging war like a couple in divorce court, the filly and the colt were at each other’s throatlatch. All heart, Swiss Skydiver refused to let Authentic get by her. Like most things between male and female, in the end the female won.
Did Swiss Skydiver win the Preaknes because it’s a topsy-turvy year and we should have expected the unexpected? Or was it because McPeek had his race horse primed and ready for a peak performance. As is the case in any of these “big” races, the stars have to align. Kenny McPeek looked like an astrologer as his beautiful filly put on a jaw-dropping display.
It has certainly been a weird year, but there was nothing strange about the performance of the 2020 Preakness winner.