Swiss Skydiver completely outclassed her rivals in the grade 1 2021 Beholder Mile for fillies and mares at Santa Anita Park on March 13. She was favorite by a narrow margin at 7/5 but won so easy it was a beautiful thing to watch, especially for her trainer Kenny McPeek who decided to let her have a run much earlier than was originally planned.
Owned by Peter Callahan and ridden by Robby Albarado for the third time, Swiss Skydiver asserted her authority over Bob Baffert’s 19/10 second favorite As Time Goes By more emphatically than the winning distance of two and three-quarter lengths suggests. Albarado used his brain to good effect in the race but did not have to use his physical strength or test his own fitness to be first across the wire.
Baffert also saddled the third placed Golden Principal (36/5) who finished three lengths ahead of Harvest Moon, a strongly supported Simon Callaghan trainee who was sent off at 29/10 under Flavien Prat. The long shots followed not far behind. This Tea finished closer to the winner than her starting price of 106/1 implied was likely taking fifth, beaten seven and a half lengths under Abel Cedillo for George Papaprodromou. Clockstrikestwelve (45/1) and Miss Stormy D (43/1) completed the race in that order.
Swiss Skydiver was obviously pleased to be back on the racetrack after her four month break and was a picture of health and happiness in the preliminaries. This gleaming chestnut daughter of Daredevil, bred out of a Johannesburg mare by WinStar Farm seemed to have grown taller and strengthened up during her vacation.
McPeek mentioned after the race that Swiss Skydiver is in love with her feed bowl and eats everything in a way that makes training her easy. He has handled plenty of horses but has never experienced one with such relentless enthusiasm for feed time.
What happened in the race?
Swiss Skydiver broke well from her inside gate but Albarado wisely chose to sit just behind the strong pace set by Juan Hernandez on Golden Principal from gate two. He grabbed the rail and let Harvest Moon pursue the pace in front of him. Miss Stormy D was also pressed to chase the leader by Tyler Baze and was three wide alongside her in third at the first turn. This Tea was settled behind Clockstrikestwelve and As Times Goes By was ridden at the rear of the pack by Mike Smith.
As they approached the half mile the order was maintained but Albarado edged closer to the leader’s hindquarters as Miss Stormy D started to drop back from her third spot out wide. Approaching the final turn Swiss Skydiver was briefly trapped on the rail but Albarado did not panic, he waited for Miss Stormy D to get out of the way before angling out to make his challenge. He did not have to waste ground when urging her to pass the pacesetting Golden Principal and took the shortest path of all in the race and posted a winning time of 1.36.18.
As Time Goes By kept on well after being patiently ridden by Smith and managed to pass her stablemate 50 yards from the wire but never looked likely to get anywhere near the winner. Swiss Skydiver had pricked her ears after taking the lead in the stretch and clearly enjoyed assuming her usual position in life. Albarado continued to press her forward gently, mostly with hands and heels, respecting the filly he calls his girlfriend.
Albarado said he wanted a forward position and that he was just a passenger as she took him into the race. He admitted that he hit her once, when asking her to pass Golden Principal in the stretch, but says he hopes she still loves him. He is looking forward to the rest of the season with her.
Peter Callahan’s daughter Trish was at the track and said she was proud of ‘Swissy’ and hoped that her father, who could not be there, was having a glass of wine and celebrating. She thinks Swissy is just getting started and praised the work and judgement of Kenny and his team. Swiss Skydiver’s exploits have been a massive uplifting force for the Callahan family during the challenges of Covid 19.
An unplanned visit to the racetrack
Swiss Skydiver ended up going faster at home than expected when she found herself in company in a what was supposed to be a regular workout before the Beholder. Reading between the lines she probably carted her work rider but came out of the experience well, convincing her connections that it would be a waste not to use her energy and exuberance in a race.
McPeek brought forward her schedule. The grade 3 Baird Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland was on it and was potentially a less demanding challenge but waiting another month until April 16 seemed a waste of workouts.
What next for Swiss Skydiver?
Callahan said before the Beholder that he envisioned Swiss Skydiver lining up six times in her four-year-old season if all goes to plan. He hopes that she will lock horns with Baffert’s Monomoy Girl again at some point. Things went wrong for Swiss Skydiver when they met in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on her previous start in November. She got her legs in a terrible tangle as she exited the stalls and her fleece noseband almost got dirty as she stumbled. She found herself towards the rear of the pack facing plenty of kickback but bravely fought her way to the front momentarily in the stretch.
Unfortunately the effort expended, making up the ground that was lost early, seemed to leave her short of the energy required to follow through to the wire. She was sensibly eased by Albarado when her chance was gone and was beaten eight lengths by Monomoy Girl and finished seventh. It was a disappointing result after her sensational triumph against the boys in the Preakness a month earlier. She was a 12/1 chance and beat Baffert’s 6/4 favorite and Kentucky Derby/Breeders’ Cup winner Authentic by a neck.
We do not know if there are plans to take on the colts again this season but another battle with Monomoy Girl looks very likely.