Bloodlines: McPeek’s Eye For A Bargain Strikes Again With Swiss Skydiver

Pedigrees are funny things. We look at them on the pages of sales catalogs through the prism of the weakest link, which is typically the female line.

Consider that, almost universally, the sire of a foal is a better racehorse than the dam; the broodmare sire is likewise almost always better than his offspring, the dam, and his mate, the second dam. The rationale for presenting “pedigree” in that fashion is that if the female line is strong, then the rest of the pedigree should likewise be quite good.

Yet when looking at sales horses, frequently we hear people say, “Not a lot of pedigree there,” without a thought to the rest of the animal’s heritage not foregrounded on the page.

That might have been the case with Swiss Skydiver when the winner of the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga came to auction at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2018. There, the chestnut daughter of Daredevil (by More Than Ready) attracted little attention as Hip 2997 in the sale that lasts two weeks.

She did, however, attract the right attention.

Trainer Kenny McPeek is an exception among trainers: he loves the yearling sales. McPeek said, “I think buying yearlings is the most fun we have in racing. It’s the ultimate challenge.”

McPeek meets the challenge this way: “We’ve got a very systematic approach in how we work a sale. We turn over every stone, and the emphasis is on the physical. I trained a lot of bad horses early on, a lot of claimers, and I learned a lot from them, what their limitations were and what their issues and weaknesses were. So, I started going to the yearling sale knowing what a horse looked like that I didn’t want to train.”

McPeek also has some fairly specific factors for strength and motion that he does prize in horses, and he noted that Swiss Skydiver was a strong filly with a grand walk. With regard to pedigree and physique, McPeek said, “If they’ve got all the right parts in the right places, they don’t know who they’re out of. They’re going to be racehorses. I’ve made my career out of being able to pick out top horses with a modest budget,” including stars like two-time Horse of the Year and leading sire Curlin (Smart Strike).

Selecting top performers from the ranks of growing prospective athletes is no mean feat, and McPeek has had to increase the degree of difficulty by operating on a moderate budget. He said that “years ago, an owner told me, ‘You need to train horses like Wayne Lukas.’ I said, ‘[Expletive], you need to buy me horses like Wayne Lukas.’ That owner was my dad.”

Instead, McPeek has had to go to the sales and pick horses who have the physical qualities he wants and that fall within his budget. Swiss Skydiver is another top horse who fit the criteria, and McPeek bought her for $35,000.

One reason for the meager auction price is that the filly catalogs no better than “so-so.” There’s black type with each of her first four dams, but they all fit on the catalog page. The superstar performers are all above the female line.

The filly’s sire is G1 Champagne winner Daredevil; his sire is G1 winner More Than Ready, a sire of international acclaim; the dam’s sire is champion Johannesburg, winner of the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and selected as champion juvenile colt in each country he raced in 2001.

The great majority of top performance indicators among those three sires, the best horses in the first two generations of Swiss Skydiver’s pedigree, is for excellence at two, with more than a hint of turf. So, the filly won a maiden special at two, has shown strong improvement at three, has shown her best form at eight to 10 furlongs, and looks like a champion on dirt.

On her racing profile and distance preferences, the high-class filly seems much more like the sire of her second dam, Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold (Alydar).

A good-looking, rangy chestnut, Strike the Gold won the 1991 Kentucky Derby, as well as the Blue Grass Stakes at three and the Pimlico Special at four, earning nearly $3.5 million. After a quiet start at stud, Strike the Gold was sold to the Turkish Jockey Club as a 10-year-old and went to stand at the TJC’s Karacabey Stud Farm, beginning his term at stud in Turkey in 1999. There, he sired champions and classic winners and was Turkey’s leading sire; Strike the Gold was euthanized on Dec. 13, 2011 at the age of 23.

Strike the Gold’s lasting influence has been notably toward stamina and classic quality, and in that regard, Swiss Skydiver is a strike on the mother lode.

The post Bloodlines: McPeek’s Eye For A Bargain Strikes Again With Swiss Skydiver appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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