Swiss Skydiver Takes on the Boys in Saturday’s Preakness

September 27th, 2020

Albarado Tabbed to Ride Multiple Graded-Stakes Winner

Ny Traffic Likely for Preakness Following Sunday Breeze

Derby Hero Authentic Slated to Breeze Monday at Churchill

BALTIMORE – Peter Callahan’s Grade 1 stakes-winning filly Swiss Skydiver will compete in the 145th Preakness (G1) at Pimlico on Oct. 3, trainer Kenny McPeek confirmed Sunday.

Veteran jockey Robby Albarado will replace Tyler Gaffalione on the millionaire filly. Albarado won the Preakness in 2007 aboard future Hall of Famer Curlin.

When she goes to the gate at historic Pimlico Race Course, Swiss Skydiver will be the 55th female to run in the Preakness. The most recent of the five filly winners of Maryland’s Triple Crown classic was Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Her success against males in Baltimore helped her capture the 3-year-old filly title and the Horse of the Year Award.

McPeek had talked about the 1 3/16-mile Preakness as a possibility for Swiss Skydiver since the summer and decided to send her in against males for a second time when she worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Churchill Downs Saturday morning. In June, the chestnut daughter of Daredevil won the Santa Anita Oaks (G2), her third straight victory. In her first attempt against males, she ended up second to Preakness prospect Art Collector in the July 11 Blue Grass Stakes (G2). On August 15 at Saratoga, she won as she pleased in the 1 ¼ mile Alabama (G1). Three weeks later, she was second in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). 

“I know she will make the distance without any problem,” McPeek said. “I think she will like that racetrack. Of course, she has raced everywhere. Whatever racetrack she has raced over she has handled great. It was a tough call between racing against straight 3-year-olds or older fillies and mares or turf, which was briefly thought about. I think she will handle it fine.

“My preference would have been if they wrote a race back like the Alabama back for this week. But that doesn’t exist. There are no 3-year-old filly Grade 1s. She gets a little bit of weight off and she’s continuing to do good,” he added.

A victory against the boys would greatly enhance Swiss Skydiver’s quest for year-end honors.

“I think if she wins a race like this you’ve got to include her possible Horse of the Year,” McPeek said. “She’s danced every dance and she’s been hickory and she had entertained the fan base like probably no filly in years. I think it’s a chance to make history.”

The other dirt option for McPeek prior to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Keeneland on November 7 was the Spinster (G1) on Oct. 4, also at Keeneland.

Preakness entries will be taken Monday. Swiss Skydiver will ship to Maryland from Kentucky on Tuesday.

“It will be interesting to see where she draws,” McPeek said. “I think she runs better from the outside and I think drawing the one-hole cost her the Oaks. I think she got pinned down in there and if my rider had stayed inside he probably would have won. But he went around. Hindsight is 20/20. It is what it is.”

Ny Traffic Likely for Preakness Following Sunday Breeze 

Ny Traffic breezed a half-mile in 48 seconds at Churchill Downs Sunday morning to the satisfaction of trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., who stopped just short of committing the Haskell (G1) runner-up to Saturday’s Preakness.

“Most likely he’s going to go, but tomorrow we’ll make the decision,” Joseph said. “We were very happy with the work.”

Ny Traffic’s half-mile clocking was the second- astest of 88 recorded at the distance.

Sunday’s workout was his first since finishing eighth in the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby (G1), in which he was a forward factor early before weakening in the stretch. He exited the Derby with a cut in his left front ankle.

The son of Cross Traffic had previously lost by a nose to eventual Kentucky Derby winner Authentic in the July 18 Haskell at Monmouth Park.

Derby Hero Authentic Slated to Breeze Monday at Churchill

Following more stakes success at Santa Anita on Saturday, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert flew from California to Kentucky Sunday morning to check on his Preakness candidates Authentic and Thousand Words.

Authentic, Baffert’s record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby winner, is scheduled to work Monday morning at Churchill Downs. Thousand Words, a three-time stakes winner, had his final Preakness work Saturday.

“All good. He came out of it really well,” Baffert said about Thousand Words. “He’s on course.”

Baffert said he will make the final call on his Preakness horses Monday morning before entries close. The post-position draw is set for noon.

In the Preakness, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride Authentic and Florent Geroux will ride Thousand Words.

Saturday afternoon at Santa Anita, Baffert saddled the 1-2 finishers in the Chandelier Stakes (G2), Princess Noor and Varda, before saddling the top two finishers in the Awesome Again (G1), Whitney (G1) winner Improbable and heavy favorite Maximum Security, winner of the Pacific Classic (G1).

Art Collector on Track for Trip to Pimlico

Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector, winner of the $200,000 Ellis Park Derby and Keeneland’s Blue Grass (G2) in his last two starts, did a combination of walking and jogging at Churchill Downs under Welter Davilla Sunday morning.

 “I just wanted to let him move around a little without actually training,” trainer Tommy Drury said.

Art Collector, a son of 2006 Preakness Stakes winner and 3-year-old champion Bernardini, worked a half-mile in 48 seconds on Saturday.

Lunsford, Drury and jockey Brian Hernandez are shooting for their first Triple Crown win, with Drury making his first start in the series. Lunsford has never had a Preakness starter, but his horse Vision and Verse was second by a head at 54-1 odds in the 1999 Belmont Stakes (G1) won by Lemon Drop Kid.

Allied Racing’s Mr. Big News, the Kentucky Derby third-place finisher at 46-1 odds, jogged a mile Sunday morning under regular exercise rider Tony Quinones. Mr. Big News is to fly to Baltimore Tuesday. He’s trained by Bret Calhoun and will be ridden by Gabriel Saez. Calhoun, Saez and Allied Racing’s Chester Thomas all are seeking their first wins in the Triple Crown series, with the trainer and owner set to participate in the Preakness for the first time.

The Steve Asmussen-trained trio of PneumaticMax Player and Excession all galloped Sunday. Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pneumatic, winner of Monmouth Park’s Pegasus Stakes, is training at Saratoga, with George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds’ Max Player and Calumet Farm’s Excession at Churchill Downs.

Max Player was fifth in the Kentucky Derby in his first start under Asmussen’s care after finishing third in both Saratoga’s Travers Stakes (G1) and Belmont Park’s Belmont Stakes (G1). Excession makes his first start since finishing a good second to the highly regarded Nadal (since sidelined) in Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes (G2). Pneumatic was fourth in the Belmont Stakes before earning his first stakes triumph in the Pegasus.

Asmussen, who recently became only the second trainer to win 9,000 races, is seeking a third Preakness victory, following Curlin in 2007 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Both horses went on to be Horse of the Year, with Curlin also earning that title in 2008.

Godolphin’s homebred Jim Dandy (G2) winner Mystic Guide breezed five furlongs Sunday in 1:01.60 over the main track at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. Trainer Mike Stidham has all but ruled out the Preakness.

“The work went great. It was on a wet track but he handled it really well. We were comfortable with it being a safe track to work on,” Stidham said. “He just went evenly and finished up nice with a good gallop out, but we’re pretty much focused on skipping the Preakness and going into the Jockey Club.”