News and STORIES
Gamine, Swiss Skydiver Set for Kentucky Oaks
Author: Don Mckee
Published: Friday September 04, 2020
Two of horse racing's top runners, Gamine and Swiss Skydiver, are set for Friday's Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs. The event is for the season's top three-year-old fillies.
The Oaks covers nine furlongs and has a purse of $1.25 million. It is the top prize for the division, and it was moved from early May to Labor Day weekend.
Michael Lund Petersen's Gamine and Peter Callhan's Swiss Skydiver will go up against seven other rivals in the Oaks. Because of the later start date, the field was able to get in some more races.
There are four other starters that are grade stakes winners: Donna Veloce, Hopeful Growth, Shedaresthedevil, and Speech.
Gamine is a daughter of leading sire Into Mischief out of the Kafwain mare Peggy Jane. She developed early and impressed as a two-year-old in training in central Florida with Bobby Dodd.
Gamine was purchased for $200,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale by Grand Oaks. In last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, Petersen got $1.8 million and moved her over to Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who has won the Oaks three times.
Since then, she has impressed her connections with a sharp maiden win and a victory over Speech going two turns at Oaklawn Park. However, she was disqualified in the latter outing after testing positive for lidocaine.
Following that mishap, Gamine won the one-turn-mile Longines Acorn Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park by 18 3/4 lengths. She also took a seven-length victory in the seven-furlong Longines Test Stakes (G1). Both of those races produced stakes records.
"I know we're fast and we're going a mile and an eighth for the first time," Baffert said. "She went two turns at Oaklawn and ran a really fast time and beat a good filly. Speech is a really good filly.
"She's been going easy since she got here (Sept. 1), but the track is wet, so you can't do much. She's handled everything really well."
Swiss Skydiver has won four straight graded stakes races against girls around two turns.
Those included a 3 1/2 length win in the 10-furlong Alabama Stakes (G1) Aug. 15 at the Spa. Her only loss since February came when Art Collector beat her in the July 11 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2). She was 4 3/4 lengths in front of the third-placed male going 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland.
Swiss Skydiver was purchased for $35,000 as a Keeneland September buy, and she has earned $952,980.
She is trained by Ken McPeek, who took second in the 2017 Oaks with Daddys Lil Darling. They drew post 1 on Tuesday.
"Her form pretty well proves herself," McPeek said. "The question about Gamine is two turns. She's only run it once, and she had to fight. It's going to be fun to watch.
"My filly is just so hickory. All week she's done nothing but dive into the feed tub. The biggest problem is keeping her settled when we don't feed her quickly."
Both runners move quick early and often take the lead, so it will be exciting to see the pair face off.
There are other talented runners among the field as well, such as Speech, a bay filly by Mr Speaker owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Madaket Stables, and Heider Family Stables.
She pressed Gamine at Oaklawn and finished second behind Swiss Skydiver in the June 6 Santa Anita Oaks (G2). She then took a three-length victory in the July 11 Central Bank Ashland (G1) at Keeneland.
Other entries for the Oaks include Tempers Rising, Donna Veloce, Bayerness, Shedarestheevil, Hopeful Growth, and Dream Marie.