Analysis: Swiss Skydiver an attractive play in Ogden Phipps

Analysis: Swiss Skydiver an attractive play in Ogden Phipps
Photo: Ted McClenning/Eclipse Sportswire

Finding value betting-wise in a female Preakness Stakes champion is not easy. Because of the historical importance of Swiss Skydiver’s win last October, she is likely to remain quite popular for the rest of her career from a fan and wagering standpoint.

When Swiss Skydiver starts in the $500,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) on Saturday at Belmont, though, her odds might actually appear attractive for this race after losing two of her last three starts since the Preakness effort. On the morning line, she is tied as the second choice at 5-2 with her old rival Shedaresthedevil.

Both of Swiss Skydiver’s losses since the Preakness are forgivable.

In the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Swiss Skydiver stumbled at the start. After gathering herself together and attempting to make an inside bid on the far turn, she faded.

At the top of the stretch, she almost reached even terms with Harvest Moon.

Given the early stumble, most handicappers would forgive Swiss Skydiver’s effort regardless of whether she tried to make a serious bid. The fact that Swiss Skydiver showed interest and wanted to get back into the race is a positive sign. She failed to sustain the move, but she had to work hard to even get back into position.

Swiss Skydiver began this year strong with a 2 3/4-length win in the Beholder Mile (G1), earning a 122 TimeformUS Speed Figure in the process.

In her second start of the season, Swiss Skydiver faced tough opponents in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn in Monomoy Girl and Letruska. Unfortunately, Swiss Skydiver received a questionable ride from Robby Albarado.

At the start, Albarado visibly urged Swiss Skydiver forward. Yet, when Letruska tried for the lead, Albarado opted to settle behind her and let his mount eat dirt.

After the first turn, Monomoy Girl ran up alongside Swiss Skydiver and boxed Swiss Skydiver in.

From there, it seems Irad Ortiz Jr. gave a masterful ride on Letruska by leaving a small opening to bait Swiss Skydiver into moving inside and then closing the path.

Listen for how the announcer Vic Stauffer said, “Letruska is the controlling speed. She has left the rail open for Swiss Skydiver if she is bold enough to go through there.” Then, the gap closed after he announces there is an opening for her.

Swiss Skydiver got one last chance on the far turn when Letruska finally came out slightly and met Monomoy Girl eye to eye, leaving the rail open. She was empty, though, and that is fair after being urged for no reason out of the gate and enduring the poor trip behind Letruska and next to Monomoy Girl on the far side.  

Albarado kept urging Swiss Skydiver for a little while longer, but there was nothing there. She finished third by 6 1/2 lengths, earning a 116 on TimeformUS.

At 5-2, Swiss Skydiver deserves another chance from bettors.

This time, trainer Ken McPeek replaces Albarado with Jose Ortiz. Also, Shedaresthedevil is entered in this race and might end up weakening Letruska when their natural running styles clash. Even though Shedaresthedevil is capable of sitting one or two lengths behind the leaders, Florent Geroux probably does not want to let Letruska slip away uncontested. Letruska and Shedaresthedevil could separate early on.

If Letruska and Shedaresthedevil run off in their own match race, it could leave more breathing room for Swiss Skydiver in third. With Shedaresthedevil giving Letruska a stiff challenge and hurting both of them on the front, Swiss Skydiver can strike first on the turn and win.

Of course, that is an ideal scenario for Swiss Skydiver and anything could go wrong. But at 5-2, it is worth taking a shot.

As for a second choice, give Valiance consideration as well. She is 4-1 on the morning line and might offer almost the same ability as Swiss Skydiver, Letruska or Shedaresthedevil. The main difference is that Valiance’s running style is more conservative than those three names. 

Valiance won the Spinster Stakes (G1) at Keeneland last October, beating Shedaresthedevil in third in 3 1/4 lengths with a 122 TimeformUS Speed Figure. After that performance, Valiance ran a good second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff with a 120 on TimeformUS, losing to Monomoy Girl by only 1 3/4 lengths.

Luis Saez retains the mount for trainer Todd Pletcher. Saez figures to settle within a few lengths of the leaders on Valiance and make sure the big names up front do not slip away.

Letruska ran a super race in the Apple Blossom. She was the blog choice heading into that race, and betting on Letruska back then might make most bettors biased the next time she runs. But it feels like betting on Letruska in the Apple Blossom at 3-1 was the right time.

Shedaresthedevil beat Letruska two starts ago in the Azeri Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn before winning the La Troienne Stakes (G1) at Churchill Downs. The threat of a speed duel makes her unattractive, though. Letruska did not duel with her in the Azeri, but that could change here after Letruska’s speed resulted in a big victory in the Apple Blossom.

This time around, Swiss Skydiver and Valiance are the best betting options.

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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