Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Swiss Skydiver vs. Authentic Duel Revisited With Odes to Secretariat, 'Rachel,' I Am Woman

From the Pimlico Facebook page, here is a link to a replay of the stretch run in Saturday's thrilling Preakness (Grade 1)


 Swiss Skydiver (4), the only filly in the race, is on the inside. The 3-2 favorite Authentic (9) is on the  outside.

If you are reading this, you no doubt know that Swiss Skydiver, at 11-1, won the stretch duel by a neck in the Triple Crown race at Pimlico in Baltimore

It is worth viewing the replay several times to appreciate the determination of Swiss Skydiver and Authentic (this year's Kentucky Derby winner).

Swiss Skydiver's Preakness victory was historic for several reasons.

*She won the 1 3/16 mile race in 1:53.28 on the track that was listed as Fast. That is the second fastest time ever in the Preakness--trailing only the legendary Secretariat who ran it in 1:53.00 in 1973.

*Her win was the first in the Preakness  for a filly since the great Rachel Alexandra in 2009. and only the sixth by a filly in the 145-year history of the Preakness.

Robby Albarado rode Swiss Skydiver for trainer Ken McPeek and owner Peter Callahan, a retired publishing industry executive who lives in Palm Beach County in Florida.

Graded Stakes Wins
Swiss Skydiver came into the Preakness with wins this year in four graded stakes, all restricted to 3-YO fillies, and a second place finish in the 1 1/8 mile Blue Grass Stakes (Grade 2) on July 11 at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky. She was the only filly in a 13-horse field.

That record gave Callahan a high level of optimism  about his horse in the Preakness.

On Friday, he told us "there could be a lot of speed" in the race. 

He said he expected that McPeek would instruct Albarado to keep Swiss Skydiver several lengths behind the leaders early in the race, and then pick a spot to start challenging them.

Authentic, trained  by Bob Baffert, was among  horses that  Callahan and many other horsemen and fans thought would be among early pacesetters.

On Sept. 5, Authentic beat the favorite  Tiz  the Law by 1 1/4 lengths in the Kentucky Derby.

Tiz the Law, whose 2020 wins include the Grade I stakes Florida Derby and Belmont Stakes, did not run in the Kentucky Derby.  Trainer Barclay Tagg plans to race him next in the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic,  at  1  1/4 miles at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.

Authentic came into the Preakness with five wins in six career starts. Four of those wins were in graded stakes--in which he led at every call.

John Velazquez rode Authentic in the Kentucky Derby  and had the mount in the Preakness.

Authentic was the leader after a half mile in  47.65 seconds.

Swiss  Skydiver was in fifth place near the rail and three lengths behind Authentic.

Albarado then moved Swiss Skydiver off the rail She found an opening between horses and movcd into the lead after six furlongs in 1:11.34.

They continued to race in tandem with Swiss Skydiver leading by a half length after a mile in  
1:34.74. They  ran the third quarter on a fast for that stage of 23.50 seconds.

The dominance of Swiss Skydiver and  Authentic was shown in the fact that third place finisher Jesus' Team, at 40-1, came in 9 1/4 lengths behind Swiss Skydiver.

Jesus' Team finished a head in front of Art Collector, the 2-1  second betting choice.  On July  11, Art Collector won the Blue Grass (Grade 2) at Keeneland. Max Player finished  fifth.

The $1 payoffs  were: 4-9 exacta $37.80; 4-9-6 trifecta $1,205.70; 4-9-6-3 superfecta $5,053.00; and 4-9-6-3-8 Super High 5 $64,812.60.

Callahan also had a good feeling about Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness for a reason that did not involve handicapping.

The race came four days after singer  Helen Reddy, who in the early 1970s popularized the classic I Am Woman, died of natural causes at age 78.

That timing left Callahan, his daughters and granddaughters wondering if it might be an omen for their horse.

"The song has meant a lot for women, and we're thinking 'wouldn't it be an irony and special for the memory of Helen Reddy if a filly wins 
(Preakness),?'" he said.

Callahan spent last week visiting relatives in the New York City area.

They had planned to charter a plane and fly to Baltimore on Friday. But they cancelled the trip due to growing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mainly because of COVID-19 restrictions   by tracks, even for owners, Callahan has only attended two of Swiss Skydiver's races this year.

"Our girl has done pretty well without our cheering section being there," he said.

Origin of Name
Callahan watched the Preakness with family members in Westchester County, New York.

His granddaughter Callie Rasnake, known as "the original Swiss Skydiver," was part of that group.

In the fall of 2018 Callahan was looking for a name for a year-old filly that McPeek had just bought for him for $35,000 at the Keeneland September sale.

He wanted a name that would have a connection to her sire Daredevil.

Callahan found it in a Sunday morning text with a photo from Rasnake, who was then a college student spending a semester in Europe.

The text said "Here I am, skydiving in the Swiss Alps."

It took just a couple of seconds for Callahan to decide -- "That's the name--Swiss Skydiver."

Buyers' interest in the chestnut horse that would be named Swiss Skydiver was relatively low because Daredevil was then unproven as a sire.

Daredevil won the one-mile Champagne Stakes (Grade 1) for 2-yearf-olds at Belmont Park in 2014. But he was retired from racing early the next year due to injury.

Daredevil's sire is the multi graded stakes winner More Than Ready.

Expo Gold, the dam of Daredevil, is a daughter of the muiltiple graded stakes winner Johannesburg.

McPeek liked the conformity of his purchase for Callahan, and told him he thought she would do her best once she got into two-turn races.

Swiss Skydiver has turned out to be a major bargain. The Preakness was her sixth win in eleven career starts, and raised her earnings to just under $1.8 million 

That includes wins this year in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (Grade 2), Fantasy Stakes (Grade  3) at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.,  Santa Anita Oaks (Grade 2) and Alabama (Grade 1) at Saratoga.

In her race  prior to the Preakness, Swiss Skydiver finished second by 1 1/2 lengths to Shedaresthedevil, another daughter of Daredevil,  in the 1 1/8 mile Kentucky Oaks (Grade 1) at Churchill Downs.  Shedaresthedevil set a stakes record of 1:48.28.

On Sunday Oct. 4, Shedaresthedevil finished third in the $400,000 Spinster Stakes at  1 1/8 mile on dirt for fillies and mares 3-YO and up  at Keeneland.

What's Next?
McPeek had considered  running Swiss Skydiver n the Spinster, which would have been her first race against older horses. Instead, he chose to put her in a race restricted to three-year-olds.

After the Preakness, McPeek said chances are strong that Swiss Skydiver's next race will be the $2 million Breeders' Cup Daistaff (Grade 1) at 11/8 miles.

He said he also will consider her for the Breeders' Cup Classic


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