‘She’s A Throwback Horse’: McPeek Reflects On Swiss Skydiver’s Preakness, Horse Of The Year Discussion

After walking Swiss Skydiver a few turns in the Preakness Stakes Barn at Pimlico in Baltimore, Md., on Sunday morning, trainer Ken McPeek was still trying to wrap his mind around the 3-year-old filly’s sensational triumph in Saturday’s 145th Preakness Stakes (G1) under a heads-up ride from jockey Robby Albarado.

“I should probably retire today,” McPeek said, “because I don’t think it can get higher than this. I really don’t. She’s beat so many odds. I’m beyond proud of her, proud of Robby and everyone who’s handled her. It’s been a real team effort. I have some unbelievable people who work for me that help handle the details.”

Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver not only beat the boys in the Preakness, the daughter of Daredevil registered the second-fastest running time in the storied history of Maryland’s signature Triple Crown race. The 1:53.28 clocking for her thrilling 1 3/16-mile tour of the Pimlico oval was second only to 1973 Triple Crown champion Secretariat’s 1:53 stakes-record time.

“It was surreal,” McPeek said. “It’s still surreal.”

Swiss Skydiver defeated Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Authentic by a resolute neck to become the sixth filly to win the Preakness and first since Rachel Alexandra got the better of Derby winner Mine That Bird in 2009. After saving ground on the first turn and into the backstretch aboard the McPeek trainee, Albarado made a decisive move that propelled the filly into the lead heading into the far turn, easing his mount around tiring pacesetter Thousand Words before darting back to the rail inside Authentic. Swiss Skydiver and Authentic dueled around the turn and through the stretch with the 11-1 filly gamely holding off the 3-2 favorite to the wire.

The Grade 1 victory aboard Swiss Skydiver was Albarado’s first since 2017, as well as his first graded-stakes win of 2020. The veteran jockey, who has ridden the winners of more than 5,200 races and $220 million in purses, has experienced slowing business the past few years but showed the racing world that he can still win the big ones.

“The thing about it was that we took a negative and made it into a positive. We didn’t have a rider until Saturday night (Sept. 26),” said McPeek, who was left without a rider when Tyler Gaffalione opted out. “I called Robby right away and I said, ‘Here’s what it is going to take for you to ride her. We’re going to offer the mount to Mike Smith and wait for his agent to call me back. If his agent says no then I’m going to present to the owner that you’re going to ride her. He said, ‘OK, let me know, let me know.’

Trainer Kenny McPeek

“We waited for Mike Smith’s agent to return our offer, but once I got confirmation he couldn’t ride her, I called Robby and said, ‘You’re on.’ I said, ‘But here’s what we’re going to do. We’re flying up together; we’re going to get on her all week.’ I think it was fortuitous because he got on her every day and got to know her. He spent time with her and, every day, he got more confident in her. You need a rider with confidence because if she takes you there, she’ll win. We pulled it off.”

Swiss Skydiver is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs Monday morning to prepare for a start on the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup program at Keeneland in either the Distaff (G1) or the Classic (G1).

“I like the mile and a quarter of the Classic, but the Distaff, today, is probably the wiser move. But the farther she goes the better,” McPeek said. “We can sit on it. We won’t make a rash decision.”

Swiss Skydiver entered the Preakness with four graded-stakes victories against 3-year-old fillies, including the Alabama (G1) at Saratoga, and second-place finishes in the Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland against the boys and Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill. Her victory in the final leg of the reshuffled 2020 Triple Crown puts her in the discussion for Horse of the Year, McPeek said.

“I think you have to make a case for her. I mean, she’s run every month of the year except April, and she ran at the end of March and early May. You have to make a case for her. She’s entertained coast to coast, north, south, east, west,” he said. “She’s amazing. She’s not even tired today. She’s a throwback horse.”

The post ‘She’s A Throwback Horse’: McPeek Reflects On Swiss Skydiver’s Preakness, Horse Of The Year Discussion appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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