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Filly Swiss Skydiver upsets Authentic to win the Preakness Stakes

Jockey Robby Albarado rides Swiss Skydiver ahead of John Velazquez and Authentic.
Jockey Robby Albarado rides Swiss Skydiver ahead of John Velazquez and Authentic to win the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)

In a year filled with twists and turns rarely seen before, it seemed fitting that the final leg of horse racing’s male-dominated Triple Crown would be won by a filly.

Swiss Skydiver was strong and unwavering through a stretch drive with Kentucky Derby champion Authentic to win the 145th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Saturday.

She was the 55th filly to run in what is normally the second leg of the Triple Crown and only the sixth to win it. The last filly to win came in 2009 when Rachel Alexandra won the 1 3/16-mile race, a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby.

Many had questioned trainer Kenny McPeek for entering her in the race with 10 colts. In her last race, the Kentucky Oaks against all fillies, she was in position to win but finished second at a shorter distance.

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But on Saturday, she benefitted from a near-perfect trip by jockey Robby Albarado. Thousand Words, who like Authentic is trained by Bob Baffert, went to the lead with Authentic in a good position on the outside of the leader. As Thousand Words started to slow on the backstretch, Albarado moved Swiss Skydiver off the rail and to the front.

“Bob’s two horses were in front, and when [Thousand Words] started coming back to me, I had to make a decision to either sit there and wait on them or just go on,” Albarado said. “But I feel like she’s done it so within herself that when she [got even with] the champion, I just felt like, if she’s going to beat him, here’s our chance, and she did.”

Filly Swiss Skydiver won the 145th running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, beating out Kentucky Derby winner Authentic by inches.

Down the stretch, Authentic was in a perfect position to pass Swiss Skydiver, but it never happened. The winning margin was a neck.

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“I was a little worried when they got to about the 16th pole,” McPeek said. “I thought it looked like Authentic got his head in front a little bit and then she fought right back. … I have had some tough beats, second in the Derby, been second in a bunch of Breeders’ Cup races, third here in the Preakness years back, but I’m just thrilled she fought on.”

Baffert saw it the same way.

“That’s a good filly,” Baffert said. “[Authentic] had every chance to get by her. He got beat. He just couldn’t get by her. She dug in. She’s tough.”

Swiss Skydiver paid $25.40, $8.40 and $5.80. Authentic was second, followed by longshot Jesus’ Team. The rest of the 11-horse field was Art Collector, Max Player, Excession, Mr. Big News, Thousand Words, Ny Traffic, Pneumatic and Liveryourbestlife.

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The time of 1 minute 53.1 seconds was second-fastest in Preakness history, behind only Secretariat’s 1:53 in 1973.

Swiss Skydiver has earned her share of frequent-flier miles, having raced at nine tracks in 11 races. Saturday was her sixth win, and she’s earned $1.8 million total in purse money. One of her wins this year was in the Santa Anita Oaks by four lengths June 6.

“I’ve only made one mistake — I didn’t run her in April,” McPeek said. “I ran her January, February, March, May, June, July, August, September, October. I mean, she’s hickory. Anybody who says that she hasn’t entertained this country this year any more than any other horse, they weren’t watching because she was doing it everywhere.”

Owner Peter Callahan, 78, chose not to be at the Preakness because of what he describes as a severely compromised immune system.

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“It’s a game of failures,” McPeek said. “I’ve had actually a streak for Peter that I wasn’t proud of. It seemed like we went six or seven years and we really didn’t have the kind of horses we wanted. And then [Swiss Skydiver] shows up and maybe at a really good time with the pandemic and Peter’s health issues that he’s fought through. It’s just a real blessing and a real special time.”

By virtue of winning the Preakness, Swiss Skydiver gets a free pass into the $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7 at Keeneland. She probably would have to go against older horses such as Maximum Security and Improbable, plus top 3-year-olds such as Tiz The Law and Authentic at the longer distance of 1 1/4 miles.

But it might not happen.

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“We can look at both [the Classic and Distaff], I suppose,” McPeek said. “We got in for the Distaff after [winning] the Alabama, but I would say right now we would probably lean towards the older fillies and mares. But nothing [is] set in stone and we don’t have to make a decision [Saturday], I don’t think.”

Making the right decision on Swiss Skydiver’s career seems to be something McPeek is pretty good at.

Cherwa reported from Orlando, Fla.


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