Swiss Skydiver Upsets Venetian Harbor In Fantasy Stakes

Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver, coming off a victory in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, powered past front-running Venetian Harbor, the 4-5 favorite, to win Friday’s Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark., by 2 1/2 lengths. Ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. and trained by Kenny McPeek, the daughter of the More Than Ready stallion, Daredevil, was sent off a 16-1 outsider in the field of 14 3-year-old fillies.

Time for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track was 1:42.00.

Venetian Harbor finished second, 10 3/4 lengths ahead of Shedaresthedevil in third, with Alta’s Award fourth, followed by Fire Coral, Lazy Daisy, Ring Leader, Lake Avenue, British Idiom, Ice Princess, Harvey’s Lil Goil, Kansas Kis, New York Groove and Lady Glamour.

A foul claim by David Cohen aboard Lazy Daisy against Ricardo Santana Jr aboard Alta’s Award was dismissed by stewards. Shortly after the start, Tyler Baze was nearly unseated aboard Fire Coral after being pinched between British Idiom to her inside and New York Groove to her outside.

The Fantasy Stakes awards 170 points for the Kentucky Oaks to the first four finishers (100-40-20-10). The Oaks, normally scheduled May 1, has been postponed until Sept. 4 as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Venetian Harbor, breaking from the No. 2 post position, was gunned to the lead by Flavien Prat and sped through fractions of :22.25, :45.43 and 1:09.67 for the opening six furlongs.

Swiss Skydiver raced in second throughout, then ranged up outside of Venetian Harbor to apply pressure approaching the far turn. The two raced as a team around the turn and into the stretch, with Venetian Harbor – coming off a 9 1/4-length win for trainer Richard Baltas in the G2 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita – clinging to a narrow advantage.

Inside the furlong pole, under intermittent right- and left-handed encouragement from Hernandez, Swiss Skydiver slowly gained the lead, after one mile was timed in 1:35.32. She began to draw clear in the final strides.

“We had the perfect trip,” said Hernandez. “The filly broke good and she put herself in a good spot. We had the favorite in front of us the whole way, but going around the second turn she really got within herself and traveled nicely. Turning for home I had confidence in her because I just asked her for the next gear and she went on and put the big favorite away and did it with authority. Turning for home, I looked over and thought I had a little more horse than (Venetian Harbor). When I got her to switch leads she jumped off and really picked it up nicely.”

The victory was the third in six starts for Swiss Skydiver, a $35,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm.

Produced from the Johannesburg mare, Expo Gold, Swiss Skydiver broke her maiden at first asking at Churchill Downs Nov. 16. After finishing second in an allowance race at Churchill Downs two weeks later, she made her stakes debut in the Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, finishing fifth but only beaten three-quarters of a length. Swiss Skydiver then ventured to Fair Grounds in Louisiana, finishing third behind Finite and British Idiom – last year’s 2-year-old champion – in the G2 Rachel Alexandra. She then won the Gulfstream Park Oaks in front-running fashion.Sky Skydiver won a $240,000 winner’s share of the Fantasy’s $400,000 purse.

“She’s very tactical,” McPeek said of Swiss Skydiver. “We had a hard time getting a two-turn race for her as a 2-year-old. We ran her short three times. When we finally got to run her longer, she’s been as good as it gets.

“There really aren’t a lot of options out there right now. I think they will reschedule the Ashland so it sets up for the Oaks. It would be a pretty good year to win the Gulfstream Park Oaks, the Fantasy, the Ashland and the Kentucky Oaks. I’m just thrilled for Peter Callahan. We’ve been in a slump for three or four years and now he has a really special one. We’re enjoying this.”

As for Venetian Harbor, Baltas had no excuses.

“She ran good. I think she just got tired the last sixteenth” Baltas said. “Can’t take anything away from the winner. I was sitting next to Kenny McPeek and he told me the filly was training out of her mind. I thought my filly was good, obviously, was 4-5. I really don’t have any excuses.”

The Fantasy was run in front of an empty grandstand because of the COVID-19 protocols. Saturday’s closing-day program at Oaklawn features two divisions of the G1 Arkansas Derby and the G2 Oaklawn Handicap. The 14-race program gets under way at noon CT.

The post Swiss Skydiver Upsets Venetian Harbor In Fantasy Stakes appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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