Swiss Skydiver Lands a Victory in Gulfstream Park Oaks

After shipping from Florida to Louisiana in search of a race that suited her talents, Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver stayed in the Sunshine State March 28 and wound up earning a trip to Kentucky five months from now.

Benefitting from a savvy ride by Paco Lopez, the daughter of Daredevil darted to the early lead and registered a frontrunning 3 1/4-length victory in the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) for 3-year-old fillies on the Curlin Florida Derby (G1) undercard at a spectator-less Gulfstream Park.

“We’ve always expected this out of her,” trainer Ken McPeek said. “There’s a big future for her.”

Finding a two-turn spot for Swiss Skydiver has been McPeek’s objective for quite a while, which led to shipping her to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for the Feb. 15 Rachel Alexandra Stakes Presented by Fasig-Tipton (G2), where she ran into a buzzsaw named Finite in the 1 1/16-mile stakes, along with champion British Idiom, who ran second. She finished third to that pair, 6 1/2 lengths behind.

Rather than keep her in Louisiana, McPeek opted to ship her back to Florida with the goal of the 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream Park Oaks, the track’s first graded dirt stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a two-turn distance.

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“The program at Gulfstream is a bit awkward for 3-year-old fillies in that this is their first stakes for 3-year-old fillies at two turns. The others were seven-eighths or a one-turn mile,” McPeek said by phone from his home in Louisville. “I think she’s been begging for two turns. Her race at Fair Grounds was respectable and I told the owner, Peter Callahan, ‘I think she’s going to be tough to beat here. They better have their running shoes on because this is as good as she can get.'”

By virtue of Saturday’s victory, her second in five starts, Swiss Skydiver picked up 100 qualifying points toward the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and assured herself of a spot in the 1 1/8-mile stakes, but that will not matter until Sept. 4 because of the new date for the May classic due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So for now, McPeek will likely send the filly to his Summerfield Training Center in Marion County, Fla., until the racing landscape comes into a brighter focus.

“I think you have to sit back and take your time. We’re all in the same boat. We have to let this national crisis sort itself out and let racing get back to itself,” McPeek said. “She’s probably going to Summerfield where she spent part of the winter.”

Out of the Johannesburg mare Expo Gold, Swiss Skydiver is the first graded stakes winner for her dam and one of two of Expo Gold’s four foals to race to earn black type. McPeek bought Swiss Skydiver for $35,000 from the Select Sales consignment at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

After racing in mid-pack early in the three losses that followed a debut win at Churchill Downs, Swiss Skydiver was pushed to the lead at the break from post 6 in a field of 12 and was ahead by a clear margin before hitting the backstretch. She then cruised along through soft fractions of :49.12 and 1:13.30.

“Paco did a great job of placing her forward,” McPeek said. “That was the bad thing before. She layed back in some races and got in trouble and today she made a nice run to the first turn to get clear.”

Approaching the quarter pole, Edward Seltzer and Beverly Anderson’s Lucrezia and Godolphin’s Demoiselle Stakes (G2) winner Lake Avenue took a run at the leader, but Swiss Skydiver fended off those bids and drew away to cover the distance in 1:43.54.
Sent off at 9-1, she paid $20.20 to win.

Lucrezia, a daughter of Into Mischief trained by Arnaud Delacour, took second by a nose over Lake Avenue, a Tapit homebred trained by Bill Mott. They received 40 and 20 qualifying points, respectively, toward a berth in the Kentucky Oaks.

Robert Slack and Daniel Walters’ Bajan Girl, who was sent off at 105-1, was fourth. The daughter of Speightstown trained by Rohan Crichton netted 10 points.

Spice Is Nice, the 2-1 second choice, was fifth.

Favored Tonalist’s Shape never fired at 9-5 odds and wound up seventh in suffering her first loss in six career starts.