What we learned: Swiss Skydiver easily handles Alabama distance

What we learned: Swiss Skydiver easily handles Alabama distance
Photo: Dom Napolitano/NYRA

Before Swiss Skydiver ran in the Alabama Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Saturday, stretching out to the 1 1/4-mile distance gave a few handicappers (including this one) some hesitation in trusting her completely. Last month, she gave up the lead in the nine-furlong Blue Grass Stakes (G2), albeit to a top 3-year-old colt in Art Collector.

Swiss Skydiver squashed those stamina fears with an easy victory, reaffirming her status as the main threat to Gamine in the Kentucky Oaks.

As for her trip, it had minimal drama.

Swiss Skydiver broke ahead of most of the fillies, but Javier Castellano on Crystal Ball wanted the lead and asked his mount aggressively.

Crystal Ball secured the lead, and Swiss Skydiver pressed her.  

The opening quarter went in 23.55

Envoutante settled into the pocket in third, with Spice Is Nice and Fire Coral in the same group just outside of Envoutante in fourth and fifth.

Harvey’s Lil Goil raced wide in sixth, and Bonny South trailed.

Through a half-mile in 47.91, the field did not change.

But after that point on the far turn, Swiss Skydiver moved under her own power and took the lead from Crystal Ball. As Swiss Skydiver took control, Harvey’s Lil Goil also moved up under noticeable urging from Junior Alvarado into second. But it seeemed clear she needed more.

Even though Harvey’s Lil Goil rallied on the turn, Swiss Skydiver had not been asked yet. At the top of the stretch, Tyler Gaffalione gave Swiss Skydiver a few hand reminders to go and she bursted clear from Harvey’s Lil Goil and the rest of them in a devastating performance.

Swiss Skydiver won by 3 1/2 lengths over a closing Bonny South in second and probably was capable of more.

Another 1 1/2 lengths separated Bonny South and Harvey’s Lil Goil in third. Then, 5 3/4 lengths came between Harvey’s Lil Goil and Envoutante in fourth, with another 14 1/2 lengths to Crystal Ball in fifth and 14 1/4 lengths between Crystal Ball and Spice Is Nice in sixth.

Fire Coral finished 43 3/4 lengths behind Swiss Skydiver, which is a great sign. When the field is thinned out at the end, it signals a quality race.  

Swiss Skydiver earned a 123 TimeformUS Speed Figure, which puts her in the ballpark of Tiz the Law’s high TimeformUS figure of 126, a factor to consider if the connections want to attempt the Kentucky Derby.

In all likelihood, trainer Ken McPeek and owner Peter Callahan will opt for the Kentucky Oaks. But with Gamine's presence, is it really the easier route?

For those who believe Swiss Skydiver can defeat Gamine, she might even offer value, as Gamine is the probable favorite. If nothing else, Swiss Skydiver is proven in a two-turn route, and Gamine is not.  

Bonny South ran a solid race for second.

Harvey’s Lil Goil gave a decent run when moving into second, but she became discouraged late and faded into third. The ceiling is still high for this well-bred filly.

To touch upon Spice Is Nice’s 39 1/2-length loss and Tonalist’s Shape’s 11 3/4-length deficit in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) in July, it is clear those two fillies became overrated off their Davona Dale Stakes (G2) efforts in February at Gulfstream and a few other races.  

If Spice Is Nice or Tonalist’s Shape enter another Grade 1, avoid them.

Domestic Spending upsets Saratoga Derby Invitational

With better early speed, Domestic Spending took a step forward in his fourth career start and won the Saratoga Derby Invitational at generous 7-1 odds. As Domestic Spending improved, the favored Decorated Invader lost at 4/5 with no real excuse.  

Here is a recap of their trips.

Decorated Invader initially broke on top. Get Smokin crossed over and took over the pacesetting role, and Decorated Invader tracked him.

Domestic Spending settled into third and in the clear, only three lengths off the lead. Compare that early position and margin to his Hall of Fame Stakes (G2) effort, where he settled in last and double-digit lengths off.

The 4-1 second choice Colonel Liam failed to show any speed and traveled in sixth, about six lengths off the pace.

Get Smokin went through the opening quarter in 23.41 and half-mile in 47.76.

On the turn, Get Smokin did not quit. He still held a minor 1 1/2-length advantage over Decorated Invader, with Domestic Spending now alone in third.

At the top of the stretch, Decorated Invader battled Get Smokin under a hard ride and still could not pass him. Domestic Spending moved closer. Colonel Liam rallied on the outside as well, and No Word pushed his way back into the picture in third.

In mid-stretch, Decorated Invader finally caught a tired Get Smokin. But Domestic Spending had more momentum outside of him and passed Decorated Invader to secure the lead. No Word passed Decorated Invader on the inside as well, while Colonel Liam moved closer and Gufo rallied quickly farther out to make this a blanket finish.

Domestic Spending prevailed by a head over a flying Gufo with No Word in third.

When horses with success at shorter distances stretch out and hang in the stretch run, that is a sign he or she hit his distance limitation. Decorated Invader had every chance to win and just outkick the field.

As for Domestic Spending, he is capable of improving further. Remember, he won the Saratoga Derby in only his fourth start. While this is not an official graded stakes race, for handicapping purposes, he won against a Grade 1-level field.  

In this case, unlike the Alabama, the old betting tip of playing against the favorite trying a new distance worked out well and rewarded bettors with a 7-1 winner.

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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