News and STORIES

Swiss Skydiver Wins First Grade 1 in Alabama Stakes

Author: Dominic Plouffe
Published: Monday August 17, 2020
Peter Callahan's Swiss Skydiver took her first grade 1 victory after crossing the line first in the $500,000 Alabama Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course. She has had a place on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard throughout the late spring and summer.

The early pace was set by Crystal Ball, but Swiss Skydiver pressed it and moved ahead on the second turn of the 1 1/4-mile dirt race. The 3-year-old filly trained by Kenny McPeek won by 3 1/2 lengths under Tyler Gaffalione.

The Running

She was the heavy favorite among a field of seven, and she covered the distance in 2:03.04. The payout was $4.30.

Over the final sixteenth of a mile, she was able to cruise under the wire.

Bonny South moved up late to take second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Harvey's Lil Goil in third. Swiss Skydiver's stablemate Envouteante finished in fourth.

Gaffalione was able to keep the filly at a moderate temp, with fractions of :47.91 and 1:12.27. Her performance was not as fast as it was under Mike Smith when she finished second to Art Collector in Keeneland's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) on July 11.

"He was given one instruction: I told him I wanted to go :48 for the first half-mile," McPeek said. "I thought (in) the race at Keeneland, we went a little quick (:46.61) for the first half and it took a little steam out of her and she couldn't hold off Art Collector. He spotted it. They went in 47 and (4/5ths) and he was one length off the pace. That was an 'Atta boy,' he did a great job."

The Alabama Stakes was the last race that offered qualifying points for the upcoming Sept. 4 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs. Points were awarded on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers. 

Swiss Skydiver came into the race with a 350-160 lead in points over Speech in second, and she is now at 450. Bonny South holds the third spot with 150 points.

Possible Future Races

The filly also holds 40 points toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) from finishing second in the Blue Grass. McPeek, however, is more likely to run her in the Oaks right after the Alabama. 

"I'm pretty sure it's going to be (the) Oaks. Peter and I will sit down and talk about it, but we're leaning pretty hard to the Oaks," McPeek said. "Tiz the Law's race here last week (winning the Runhappy Travers Stakes, G1) was ultra-impressive, and if you hold the two against each other, I'm not sure we want to be up against him yet."

Swiss Skydiver will likely go up against grade 1 winner Gamine in the Kentucky Oaks. Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Gamine won the Longines Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga after putting in a record-setting performance in the June 20 Longines Acorn Stakes (G1).

"It's exciting. It's going to get a lot of attention," McPeek said. "We don't have any fear of her. My filly might even have an advantage because Churchill is our base and she's went two turns repeatedly and hasn't had any trouble doing that."

It is also possible that Swiss Skydiver runs in the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course, which will be the final leg of the 2020 Triple Crown.

"If she could win the Oaks and is still in good order, I think the Preakness would be a great race to win with the filly," McPeek said. "We were trying to think a few steps ahead when we ran in the Blue Grass. It gave me an opportunity to separate the two fillies and it gave Envoutante (who ran third in the grade 1 Central Bank Ashland for McPeek) to prove herself a little bit.

"But we got points if we need them for the Preakness by running in the Blue Grass, and we found out how she fit against colts."