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Swiss Skydiver To Soar Again In 2021

Date: 11/17/2020

"139th Preakness Stakes" by MDGovpics is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The season concluded with a whimper instead of a celebration but that's not the only reason the handlers of top three-year-old filly Swiss Skydiver are opting to continue to race their horse during the 2021 season. Owner Peter Callahan said, "My family, they'd kill me if she was retired."

A season that saw Swiss Skydiver become just the sixth filly to win the Preakness Stakes ended in disappointing fashion at the Breeders' Cup in the $4 million Distaff. Though she was listed as the 2-1 second choice in the Vegas sports betting odds, Swiss Skydiver stumbled coming out of the gate and finished the race a distant seventh behind winner and betting favorite Monomoy Girl.

Callahan took the loss in the same manner as he did Swiss Skydiver's stunning victory in the Preakness. Win or lose, it's all part of the journey, another valuable experience to be absorbed.

"I'm okay finishing where we finished at the back of the pack, because there is a life lesson to be learned," Callahan said. "In this day and age, everybody gets a trophy and that's nonsense. You've got to learn to lose. You've got to take disappointment and rejection."

Even though they were saddened, Swiss Skydiver's team and their supporters still celebrated a spectacular season.

"We converted it into an excuses party and we partied hearty," Callahan said.

A Bargain Basement Beauty

When it comes to value, no one can argue that Swiss Skydiver didn't deliver bang for the buck. A $35,000 purchase at the Keeneland September sale, the daughter of Daredevil won five of 10 starts in her sophomore season. She produced a bankroll of $1,761,820.

Her signature triumph was Swiss Skydiver's takedown of Kentucky Derby winner Authentic in the Preakness Stakes. Not only was her victory just the sixth by a filly in 145 years of running Pimilco's signature event, the winning time posted by Swiss Skydiver of 1:53.28 over the the 1 3/16-mile course was second in race history, behind only the 1:53 clocked by the unparalleled Secretariat in 1973.

Swiss Skydiver's five 2020 victories were earned in five different states. She was a winner in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks and Gulfstream Park Oaks and the Grade 3 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park.

"It's been an amazing year," trainer Kenny McPeek said. "She's just been real special to be around. Through all the pandemic and everything, she's just been a real shining light."

So far in her career, Swiss Skydiver shows six wins from 12 starts and earnings of $1,812,980.

Planning For 2021

"Governor Tours Preakness Stakes Barn" by MDGovpics is licensed under CC BY 2.0

After winning the Breeders' Cup Classic, Authentic retired to stud at Spendthrift Farms. Callahan, 78, could have opted to take the same route and move Swiss Skydiver into the breeding shed and make bank but he insists that wouldn't be anywhere near as much fun as racing her as a four year old.

The decision was more about what Callahan's three daughters and four granddaughters wanted to do and less about the potential for an instant financial windfall.

"The kids don't care about that," Callahan said. "They care about having fun, and we did have fun. The kids enjoy racing. We're just starting to draw some plans for 2021 and, if we want to sell her at some point, we know where to sell her, and we've got reasonable expectations as to what she'd be worth in the auction ring. So it's all good."

A Classic Comeback?

Callahan and McPeek aren't certain when Swiss Skydiver will return to racing but they are certain that it won't be in time for the $3 million Pegasus on Jan. 23 at Gulfstream Park.

"It's too soon," Callahan said. "It's way too soon."

However, Swiss Skydiver's target date for a return to training is projected to be January. "We're going to give her a little bit of a break right now and ease her back into things after the first of the year," McPeek said.

McPeek was of the opinion that Swiss Skydiver's racing style would've been better suited to the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Breeders' Cup Classic than the Distaff's 1 1/8-mile course.

"We're not afraid of that," Callahan said of going up against the boys in next year's Classic.

Zenyatta, in 2009, remains the only female to win the Breeders' Cup Classic in the 37-year history of the race.

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