Swiss Skydiver breaks fast, cruises to Gulfstream Park Oaks win
Trainer Ken McPeek put jockey Paco Lopez on Swiss Skydiver for Saturday’s Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks because he wanted the filly to be put into the race earlier than she was in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra last month at Fair Grounds.
Lopez got Swiss Skydiver to the front into the first turn, was able to get away with a soft, uncontested early pace, and then drew away from a stalking Lucrezia to win the Gulfstream Park Oaks by 3 1/4 lengths. Lucrezia held second by a nose over Lake Avenue.
It was a half-length back to Bajan Girl, who was followed, in order, by Spice Is Nice, Dream Marie, Tonalist’s Shape, Spartanka, Mrs. S, Inveterate, Sunset Promise, and Addilyn.
The win was the second from five starts for Swiss Skydiver, a daughter of Daredevil owned by Peter Callahan.
McPeek expressed confidence in Swiss Skydiver this week because he knew she’d appreciate two turns. She had only one previous two-turn start, that a third behind Finite and British Idiom in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds.
“She just kept coming around, we finally got a series of two-turn races under her belt, which she’s needed really bad,” McPeek said by phone from Kentucky where he watched the race on television from what he called his “Grade 2 couch.”
“She showed a lot of talent from the beginning,” McPeek added.
The break was key to Swiss Skydiver who got to the front under Lopez with an opening quarter in 24.33 seconds. She maintained a one-length advantage over Lucrezia through a half-mile in 49.12. Lucrezia, under Julien Leparoux, made a run at Swiss Skydiver around the far turn, but Swiss Skydiver had plenty left with which to finish and drew away in the final eighth of a mile.
“She needed to jump a little quicker,” McPeek said. “My assistant [Greg Geier] and I talked about popping her out of the gate. She tended to lag behind a little bit in some of the sprint races. Paco, he’s what I call a lean-forward type of jock. When they load the gate, he doesn’t hesitate. He did a great job today, breaking her out of there and put her in a position where he could steal it.”
Swiss Skydiver covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.54 and returned $20.20 to win.
Tonalist’s Shape, trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., suffered her first defeat after winning her first five career starts. She was wide entering the first turn but was pretty much out of run by the quarter pole and ended up seventh, beaten 11 3/4 lengths.
Spice Is Nice, second to Tonalist’s Shape in the Grade 2 Davona Dale, was in tight quarters entering the first turn, tried to make a run around the turn, but flattened out in upper stretch, beaten 10 lengths.
Swiss Skydiver earned 100 qualifying points toward the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks.
McPeek said since his filly has run at Tampa, Fair Grounds, and Gulfstream Park already this winter, she will likely benefit from a little break before gearing up for the summer.
“I think September will be ideal,” McPeek said.