She dances every dance — a horse like Swiss Skydiver deserves not only to be appreciated, but celebrated.
When the field is drawn this afternoon for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1), it should come as no surprise that among the names will be that of the smallish daughter of Daredevil. But don’t let her looks or her gender fool you, Swiss Skydiver is all racehorse, and she’s as tough as they come.
When she enters the starting gate at Pimlico against a full field of males, the Ken McPeek-trained filly will be making her ninth start of the year. That, in and of itself, is saying a lot these days, especially while racing at the highest level, but the amazing part of her 2020 schedule is that Pimlico will be her ninth different racetrack.
From January to October, Swiss Skydiver will have competed at Tampa Bay Downs, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita Park, Keeneland, Saratoga, Churchill Downs and now at Pimlico. Not only will she have raced at nine different racetracks in her nine races this year, but she’s never even stayed in the same state for two consecutive races.
This schedule would be something to talk about for a horse of ability, one able to be competitive in graded stakes racing, but of course, Swiss Skydiver is much more than that. The current leader of the 3-year-old filly division, the Peter Callahan-owned athlete has been nothing short of excellent in six consecutive important races.
After starting the year with a pair of decent efforts in stakes races while still quite inexperienced, Swiss Skydiver raised her level to championship material with a powerful victory in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in March.
Since that upset win against a deep field, she has marched through her competition while running in each track’s most prestigious race for 3-year-old fillies. Certainly her connections have not ducked anything with this talented filly, who bounces back from each assignment feeling good and ready for more.
In this age of resting top horses and spreading their races far apart, Swiss Skydiver is a rarity. More like top racehorses of days gone by, she travels anywhere and brings her best to the track every time.
Speaking of travel, her trainer had so much confidence in his stable star that he seriously considered taking her to Europe. But a big race on the turf at Royal Ascot this spring was not to be because of travel logistics complicated by COVID-19, so instead Swiss Skydiver has gone on a coast-to-coast tear through American racing.
Granted, she has not won them all. But her wins, which include the Gulfstream Park Oaks, Fantasy, Santa Anita Oaks, and Grade 1 Alabama, have been decisive. She left no doubt in each of who was much the best, and even the testing distance of 10 furlongs at Saratoga offered little resistance to her class.
Even in her losses, which include Keeneland’s Blue Grass and the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Swiss Skydiver has only validated that class. In the Blue Grass, she took on a large field of males for the first time and was fighting for the win at the eighth pole. Art Collector, the expected second favorite for the Preakness, got the best of her late, but well behind her were several talented males.
In the Kentucky Oaks, which was her first loss against females since February, she was slightly farther off the early pace than usual and had to swing wide from the rail to make her move. Still, only a stakes record performance by Shedaresthedevil was able to deny the hard-trying chestnut filly.
With the Breeders’ Cup only two months after the Kentucky Oaks, most horses would have finally been given some time and space between races — not Swiss Skydiver. Instead, she will come right back for another huge assignment, and she will be doing it in the final leg of this year’s Triple Crown. Undoubtedly her biggest test to date, Swiss Skydiver will take on the Kentucky Derby winner, Authentic, and another full field of males.
The Preakness will be her ninth start of the year, and after that the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, taking on older females, likely will be her 10th race in 2020.
Whether she wins on Saturday or not, I fully expect Swiss Skydiver to run another strong race, and just the fact that she is in the race, competing like the top race horse which she is, should be appreciated. Because unlike what has become the norm in modern racing, Swiss Skydiver is healthy and she runs. She is a true throwback to the glory days of racing.