Kenny McPeek has confirmed that his star filly Swiss Skydiver will run in the Preakness Stakes 2020 at Pimlico on Saturday (October 3). She will be partnered by Robby Albarado, who won the race on the legendary Curlin in 2007, for the first time.
Tyler Gaffalione has ridden this daughter of Daredevil in her two most recent starts. Owned by Peter Callahan and bred by WinStar Farm, she won the Alabama Stakes in impressive style in August at Saratoga under Gaffalione. The partnership was subsequently beaten into second place in the Kentucky Oaks by Shedaresthedevil on September 4. McPeek believes she might have won if she had not given away ground but acknowledges that getting trapped on the inside can also be an issue – and that hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The last time Swiss Skydiver ran against the males she was runner-up to Art Collector in the grade two Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in July under Mike Smith. McPeek was not happy with the way he rode her that day and appeared to blame him for getting her beaten. He had given precise instructions on fraction times that Smith failed to execute. Gaffalione got the ride next time.
McPeek mentioned the shortage of grade one opportunities for three-year-old fillies and said that he prefers to stay on the dirt rather than encounter fillies and older mares on turf. He is hoping that the weight allowance will help give Swiss Skydiver a good chance against the colts and is confident that she will have no problem with the slightly longer distance of a mile and one and a half furlongs.
The decision to run in the Preakness was announced on September 26 after McPeek was satisfied with Swiss Skydiver’s five-furlong breeze at Churchill Downs.
Four days earlier Jack Knowlton, the boss and regular spokesman for Sackatoga Stable reported that Tiz The Law, the Kentucky Derby runner-up, would not be taking part in the Preakness and would be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 7 at Keeneland.
For the first time this season Tiz The Law was not ready to resume his usual training schedule after a race. His efforts at Churchill Downs, when beaten by Bob Baffert’s Authentic, seem to have left a mark or was there an issue that only became apparent after the race? He was strongly fancied to win the Run for the Roses but it had already been a long season for him.
It started in early February with an effortless win in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park and then there was another facile victory in the Florida Derby at the same track at the end of March. Whilst Covid restrictions led to races galore being canceled this son of Constitution would have been kept fit throughout, ready for whenever racing resumed. No one knew the schedule so there was no chance of giving trainees a break from the work tab.
There was another easy victory in the Belmont Stakes in June followed by a particularly impressive score in the Travers at Saratoga in August when Tiz The Law achieved his largest margin of victory at five and a half lengths. It could be argued that it was not the strongest renewal of the Travers as some of his potential rivals sensibly chose to avoid him and race elsewhere in the hope of gaining the necessary Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
The only runner in the Travers who looked likely to stand a serious chance of challenging Tiz The Law was Baffert’s Uncle Chuck, the 3/1 second favorite with the US-friendly racebooks. Uncle Chuck emptied alarmingly quickly in the final furlong and was beaten 11 lengths and finished with only the 77/1 shot Shivaree behind him in the field of seven. He may have been suffering from a physical problem and has not been seen on a racetrack since.
The Travers was Tiz The Law’s first try at a mile and a quarter and he galloped all the way to the wire, winning in the fastest time since Baffert’s ill-fated Arrogate broke the all-time race record in 2016 with a time of 1.59.36. Tiz The Law’s detractors should note that his time of 2.00.95 was not only the best since Arrogate but the second fastest since Claude McGaughey III saddled Easy Goer in 1989 who won in a time of 2.00.80.
All owners love to see their horses run in prestigious races but, after hearing the feedback of trainer Barclay Tagg and his assistant Robin Smullen who regularly rides Tiz The Law, Knowlton seems to have done the right thing for his trainee.
Tiz The Law was not the only runner damaged by the Kentucky Derby. The fourth placed Honor A. P. suffered an injury during the race that was not immediately apparent but forced his retirement to the breeding shed. This stunning colt was sold for $850,000 as a yearling and was Honor Code’s most expensive son in his first crop. Trainer John Shirreffs said that he was a ‘wow’ horse who did not just look good but moved exceptionally well and showed real talent right from the beginning.
Honor A. P. won his maiden by more than five lengths on his second run as a juvenile in October 2019 at Santa Anita. Five months later in March 2020 he finished second, two lengths behind Authentic, in the grade two San Felipe Stakes at the same venue. The placings were reversed when they met in the Santa Anita Derby in June making Honor A. P. the only horse to have beaten Authentic. He was a beaten 1/5 favorite on his reappearance in the listed Shared Belief Stakes finishing nearly a length behind Baffert’s One Thousand Words in second.
Always partnered by Mike Smith, Honor A. P. covered almost 50 feet more than the winner of the Kentucky Derby. Taking into account the ground given away Honor A. P. allegedly ran the fastest race of all.
One Thousand Words reared up and fell over in the paddock at Churchill Downs resulting in his withdrawal from the Kentucky Derby. He should be one of the freshest horses in the Preakness and is the third favorite. If he did not suffer any damage in that fall it would not be a surprise to see him challenge his barnmate Authentic who is the Preakness favorite.
Art Collector was also a late absentee in the Kentucky Derby and will enjoy the same benefit of freshness. He deserves to be the second favorite in the Preakness Stakes betting and could present a serious challenge to Authentic.