Swiss Skydiver: 5 reasons she's so easy to love

Swiss Skydiver: 5 reasons she's so easy to love
Photo: Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

While the focal point in racing this time of year centers on the road to the Kentucky Derby, is also is a time when many of the top older horses in training make their long-awaited returns to the races.

On cue, two Eclipse Award winners were unveiled for their seasonal debuts Saturday. Sprinting warrior Whitmore was game in defeat, but it was the sensational filly Swiss Skydiver who stole the show with a powerhouse performance on the West Coast.

Her victory in the Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita was not only what we’ve come to expect from the daughter of Daredevil, but it was also highly gratifying. A successful return after a break of more than four months, it signaled to her legions of fans that we can expect much more of her excellence. It also gives us real hope that she can be every bit as good as last year — perhaps even better.

Swiss Skydiver is owned by Peter Callahan, but she has become the people’s horse. Her great popularity is rooted in all that is good in racing. I, like many, find Swiss Skydiver impossible not to root for. She is so easy to love, and here is why:

She dances every dance.  A throwback to times gone by, Swiss Skydiver does not rest in her stall when there is racing to be done. After showing promise in a pair of late-season starts at 2, the Kenny McPeek-trained chestnut embarked on a season seldom seen in modern racing.

Having grown up in a time when our best horses raced regularly — even Secretariat, after a monster syndication deal had been struck, ran 12 times at 3 — it’s hard to measure how gratifying it is to see one of our best horses out there and running often and consistently in big races.

Swiss Skydiver did just that in 2020. She ran 10 times last year. All of them were stakes races; the last nine were graded stakes. She ducked no horse, no race, and she made her presence felt each time. Her championship season was a schedule to be proud of and one that can demonstrate to connections that it still can be done like that. It’s not for every horse, but Swiss Skydiver is healthy and thrives with the exercise.

She travels well. Forget that plans to send her to Royal Ascot had to be scrapped because of travel logistics related to the pandemic; she still managed to log major frequent flyer miles. The champion 3-year-old filly ran at nine race tracks last season and in seven states. If there was a big race to be had, it did not matter where in the country it was run, Swiss Skydiver would be there.

This love of travel already has manifested itself this year, as she departed her winter base in Florida for California to make her first race, and victory, of 2021 a Grade 1. Pandemic restrictions aside, she is a horse who fans don’t have to travel across the country to see run — she will come to us.

She puts herself in every race. Barring an unfortunate and awful break from the gate in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, you know where the champion filly is going to be early in every race. Consistent as they come, it does not matter the track or the competition, Swiss Skydiver will be using her tactical speed to give herself every chance to win at the top of the lane.

It is true that she has finished out of the money twice in a career that to date has reached a record of 13: 7-3-1, but one of those performances came when floated wide in her seasonal debut. She was still beaten less than a length in that one. The other, of course, came in the Breeders’ Cup, and despite the terrible break, she still gave a big effort to be right there at the head of the stretch. As fans, we can count on her running her race every time out.

She faces the boys. What is more sporting than running your good horse against all comers? Many owners of female horses see no reason to run their good filly against male competition, but this is not true for the connections of Swiss Skydiver.

On two occasions last year she took on top male competition in important races. Both times, she faced big, deep fields and ran her typical tenacious race. In the Blue Grass, she succumbed late to the much more lightly raced Art Collector to finish a clear second of 13. At Pimlico, she did one better.

In what ultimately could be her defining race, Swiss Skydiver took down the Kentucky Derby winner, and the rest, in a thrilling stretch battle down the lane of Old Hilltop. Joining Rachel Alexandra as only the second filly to win the Preakness in nearly a century, she got the better of the male champion Authentic in an unforgettable race. Males likely will not be off limits for Swiss Skydiver again in 2021.

She was a bargain purchase. Perhaps most gratifying of all, Swiss Skydiver gives us all hope that even a modest investment can turn into something big. A winner of more than $2 million so far, who knows how far the filly purchased for a mere $35,000 can go? Already a six-time stakes winner, she is the ideal of anyone who dreams of owning a special horse.

Happily, she is now back. We no longer need to worry that this champion filly will not be the same type of horse after her challenging campaign at 3. Her 4-year-old debut in winning the Beholder Mile under rider Robby Albarado was vintage Swiss Skydiver.

With a Grade 1 race in April likely next, either the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park or the La Troienne at Churchill Downs, it appears that we have plenty to look forward to in 2021, and when it comes to Swiss Skydiver, plenty is the key word.

Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to HRN, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing webcast HorseCenter, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars and is a Vox Populi committee member. He is a voter for racing's Hall of Fame, as well as a weekly NTRA poll voter. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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