When Swiss Skydiver upset the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Park Oaks at 9.10-1 odds March 28, that performance was viewed by some pundits as being the direct result of her getting loose on the lead and setting a slow pace.
The 3-year-old daughter of Daredevil is unlikely to face such a critique anymore. Racing against a talented cast in the May 1 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park, she proved she doesn't need a dream trip to be successful. She's just fast.
After chasing 9-10 favorite Venetian Harbor, a runaway last-out winner of the Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park, Swiss Skydiver turned up the pressure on that rival after a half-mile and the two battled thereafter. They opened on the other 12 fillies entering the stretch, with Venetian Harbor briefly holding a slight edge, before Swiss Skydiver pulled away over the final furlong to win by 2 ½ lengths.
Indicative of their superiority over the rest of the pack, which included champion British Idiom, there was a break of 10 ¾ lengths back to third-place finisher Shedaresthedevil.
Swiss Skydiver, sent off at odds of 16.10-1, raced 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.
"We had the favorite in front of us the whole way, but going around the second turn, my filly really got within herself and traveled nicely," jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. said. "Turning for home, I had confidence in her because I just asked her for the next gear, and she went on and put the big favorite away and did it with authority."
The Fantasy provided Swiss Skydiver with 100 qualifying points toward the Sept. 4 Longines Kentucky Oaks, improving her tally to 210, by far the most of any 3-year-old filly.
How she gets to the Oaks is to be determined, as racetracks amend stakes schedules and racing resumes spectatorless during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trainer Kenny McPeek, who trains Swiss Skydiver for owner Peter Callahan, suggested he might try the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland if that race is rescheduled sometime before the Oaks. Keeneland officials have stated they would like to run a summer meet if they can gain approval.
"It would be a pretty good year to win the Gulfstream Park Oaks, the Fantasy, the Ashland, and the Kentucky Oaks," he said. "I'm just thrilled for Peter Callahan. We've been in a slump for three or four years, and now he has a really special one. We're enjoying this."
Trainer Richard Baltas was pleased with runner-up Venetian Harbor.
"She ran good. I think she just got tired the last sixteenth. Can't take anything away from the winner," he said. "I was sitting next to Kenny McPeek, and he told me the filly was training out of her mind. I thought my filly was good, obviously. I really don't have any excuses."
Disappointing as the 4.20-1 second choice was British Idiom, the champion juvenile filly of 2019, who finished 10th, her second loss this year in as many starts after a 3-for-3 campaign at 2.
“She made a middle move up the backside, and it looks like she leveled off," British Idiom’s trainer Brad Cox said. "Watching the race, it didn't take too much to figure out at the quarter pole that there was a race between two horses, and we didn't have either one of them."
Cox's other starter, Shedaresthedevil, another daughter of Daredevil, ran better, though the Honeybee Stakes winner never got close to the top pair. Beaten 13 ¼ lengths by the winner, she edged Alta's Award for third.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Swiss Skydiver improved her record to 3-1-1 from six starts and her earnings to $437,980. McPeek bought Swiss Skydiver for $35,000 from the Select Sales consignment at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
The Fantasy, moved to the traditional date of the Kentucky Oaks this year after the latter race was postponed until September, last produced Oaks winners when champions Blind Luck (2010) and Rachel Alexandra (2009) captured both races when the Fantasy was run in early-to-mid April.