Swiss Skydiver takes Alabama; Kentucky Oaks likely next

Swiss Skydiver takes Alabama; Kentucky Oaks likely next
Photo: Dom Napolitano/NYRA

Swiss Skydiver showed Saturday that 1¼ miles is no problem. She was much the best at 10 furlongs in Saratoga’s Grade 1, $500,000 Alabama, winning geared down under jockey Tyler Gaffalione.

Now will she try the 1¼ miles again Sept. 5 in the Kentucky Derby? Or will she cut back to nine furlongs one day earlier against fellow fillies in the Kentucky Oaks?

“I would say today it’s going to be the Oaks,” trainer Kenny McPeek told NBC. “That’s a big step, the Derby. It’s a bigger field.

“But she’s just amazing. As many years as I’ve been doing this, I’ve had some really good fillies. She just keeps amazing us. Every race, it seems like there’s a little more there. She overcomes adversity and is just really special.”

Swiss Skydiver, a $35,000 yearling purchase in 2018, has put forth a barnstorming campaign in 2020 to establish herself as a top 3-year-old filly. She’s now won graded stakes this season at Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita and Saratoga, while also running second against mixed company last month in Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes (G2).

With that resume to boast, Swiss Skydiver went off an even-money favorite in the 140th running of the Alabama.

Coming out of the gates, Gaffalione placed the Daredevil filly second in the seven-horse field. She sat just off Bob Baffert trainee Crystal Ball, who set fractions of :23.55, :47.91 and 1:12.27.

Swiss Skydiver put a nose in front coming around the turn, then drew off. It was a scene reminiscent of Tiz the Law’s authoritative Travers Stakes (G1) win one week prior over the same distance at the same track.

Swiss Skydiver covered the 1¼ miles in 2:03.04 for a victory that returned $4.30. Bonny South rallied past Harvey’s Lil Goil late for second-place honors.

Campaigned by Peter Callahan, Swiss Skydiver has accumulated sufficient points to make the starting gates for both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. As McPeek indicated, connections will likely run her against fellow fillies, setting up a showdown with two-time Grade 1 winner Gamine.

Looking toward this fall, Swiss Skydiver’s Alabama victory clinched a Breeders’ Cup Distaff “Win and You’re In” berth. She joins Fighting Mad, Midnight Bisou, She’s a Julie and Vexatious as fillies or mares to win Challenge Series races this summer for the Distaff division.

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