Heavily favored Midwestern invader Swiss Skydiver went to the early lead and waltzed to an ultra impressive four-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Anita Oaks—her third consecutive graded stakes tally. Trained by Ken McPeek and ridden by Mike Smith, the modestly priced Kentucky-bred daughter of Daredevil got the mile and one sixteenth in 1:43.20 on a fast main track at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.
Breaking on top as expected, Swiss Skydiver was immediately engaged by recent runaway maiden winner Merneith, but it was to no avail, as Smith maintained a one-length advantage to the quarter pole and Swiss Skydiver opened up through the lane, winning in hand with her ears pricked.
“When a horse puts their ears forward like that, that means there usually is something left in the tank,” said Smith, who was aboard Swiss Skydiver for the first time in the Oaks. “They are kind of taking a breather, looking at things. When I tightened the reins up, she really accelerated. I kept busy until the eighth pole and really, she was on cruise control after that. She’s an extremely talented filly.”
A handy winner of the G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks on March 28, Swiss Skydiver, who was purchased for $35,000 as a Keeneland September Yearling in 2018, came off a 2 ½ length score in the G3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park, a race in which she was off at 16-1. Dispatched at 3-5 today in a field of four sophomore fillies, Swiss Skydiver returned $3.20 and $2.10 with no show wagering.
“She’s good, just keeps getting better too,” said McPeek, who flew in from his Churchill Downs base on Friday. “I was reluctant to bring her, we thought maybe we ought to wait for the (Grade I) Ashland with a short field and everything. She’s easy to be around, she loves to run. They asked me to bring her vet records (and) I said, ‘There aren’t any!
“They went 22 and change early, which kind of surprised me, but she’s got it in her. She’s getting better too, I think.”
Owned by Peter J. Callahan, Swiss Skydiver picked up 100 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points, assuring her of a berth in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks Sept. 4. Winning for the third consecutive time at 1 1/16 miles, she now has four wins, at four different tracks, from seven overall starts. With the winner’s share of $120,000, she increased her earnings to $557,980.
Third, about 2 ½ lengths off the winner three furlongs out, the Michael McCarthy-trained Speech kept to her task and was clearly second best on the day, finishing 7 ¼ lengths in front of Merneith. Ridden by Flavien Prat, Speech was off at 2-1 and paid $2.20 to show.
Speech picked up 40 points, while Merneith got 20 and fourth place finisher Regal Beauty collected 10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points.
Fractions on the race were 22.92, 46.55, 1:10.82 and 1:36.65.
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