HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, May 1, 2020) – Peter J. Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver, despite her #1 ranking on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard, was overlooked at odds of 16-1, but this will probably be the last time her connections can cash a big ticket after she pulled away late to defeat 4-5 favorite Venetian Harbor by 2 ½ lengths in Friday’s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3).
Swiss Skydiver never let the Venetian Harbor out of her sight as the favorite took command early from her rail position and proceeded to set fractions of :22 1/5 and :45 2/5 for the first half mile. As the top two fillies rounded the turn for home, they began to distance themselves from the rest of the field and battled head and head for several strides before the winner shook free late. She drew clear under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. to win the 1 1/16 mile race in 1:42 over a fast track. Honeybee Stakes (G3) winner Shedaresthedevil finished third, 10 ¾ lengths behind Venetian Harbor.
“She’s very tactical,” trainer Ken McPeek said. “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.”
Coming off the victory in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), Swiss Skydiver padded her lead with another 100 points and now has 210 total points towards eligibility in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 4. Venetian Harbor earned 40 points for second and is now tied with three other fillies with 50 points. Shedaresthedevil moved into fourth place with a total of 70 points after collecting 20 for her third-place effort. Fourth-place finisher Alta’s Award earned 10 points to bring her total to 20.
Fire Coral, Lazy Daisy, Lake Avenue, Ring Leader, Ice Princess, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner British Idiom, Harvey’s Lil Goil, Kansas Kis, New York Grove and Lady Glamour completed the order of finish in the 14-horse field.
Swiss Skydiver, by Daredevil, improved her record to 3-1-1 in six starts and has now earned $437,980. She returned $34.20, $10 and $5.80.
Live racing resumes tomorrow for the final day of the 2020 live race meet with a first post of 12 noon. The 14-race card is highlighted by two runnings of the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) and the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2). While no fans are permitted to experience racing onsite during this time, they can to watch and wager through OaklawnAnywhere.com or any ADW of their choice.
Winning trainer Ken McPeek, Swiss Skydiver: “She’s very tactical. 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.”
Winning jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., Swiss Skydiver: “We had the perfect trip. 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.”
Trainer Richard Baltas, second with Venetian Harbor: “She ran good. I think she just got tired the last sixteenth. Can't take anything away from the winner. I was sitting next to (trainer) 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.”
Jockey Flavian Prat, second on Venetian Harbor: “She a good trip. The winner came to us at the quarter pole and for a second I thought I could hold on, but she got tired the last 16th.”
Trainer Brad Cox, third with Shedaresthedevil and 10th with British Idiom: “Shedaresthedevil's run was really good. It looked like she was maybe in tight down on the inside and maybe had to start her run maybe a little bit later than need be, but I really don't think it cost her a placing. (British Idiom). Disappointed. Didn't really take the jock there much. He asked her to run up the backside. She made a middle move up the backside and looks like she leveled off. Watching the race, it didn't take too much to figure out at the quarter pole that there was a race between two horses and we didn't have either one of them.”
Jockey Joel Rosario, third on Shedaresthedevil: “She ran well. Had it a little tough going into the first turn. Down the backstretch, I tried to follow the leaders. I wish she had been a little closer. She came running the last part. She was finishing at the end.”