She's big, she's bold, and she's back.
Swiss Skydiver schooled her California rivals March 13 in the $300,000, Grade 1 Beholder Mile at Santa Anita Park, easily drawing off to win the one-mile test by 2 3/4 lengths.
Making her 4-year-old debut for owner Peter Callahan and trainer Kenny McPeek, the 2020 Grade 1 Preakness Stakes winner was confidently handled by Robby Albarado in her first start since a seventh in the Nov. 7 Grade 1 Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff at Keeneland.
"She breathes different air, you know? She's just really special," McPeek told TVG. "We've been so honored to be around her. Peter Callahan and his family are having a blast with this, which they should. It's such a humbling business for the most part. Being around her is amazing. I'm really proud of my team and Robby — he knows her so well."
Golden Principal was sent to the early lead to post a :23.14 quarter-mile with Harvest Moon in closest pursuit, while Swiss Skydiver tracked fourth on the rail after breaking well from the inside. The Daredevil filly moved up to third through a :46.80 half-mile, approached the final turn through three-quarters in 1:11.19 while angling three wide, and found running room at the head of the lane. She kicked into another gear in upper stretch and left six other runners in the dust, drawing away under one left-handed stroke and strong handling late. The final time was 1:36.18 on a fast track.
"Being on the inside, circumstances dictate that you need to get away clean to get some kind of a forward position," said Albarado, who has ridden Swiss Skydiver in her past three starts, including a neck victory over eventual Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male Authentic in the Oct. 3 Preakness. "I knew we had speed in the race but if I could get her in position, get her to clip off twelves every eighth [of a mile], she comes home pretty fast.
"Pretty much up the backside, every point I felt like she was right there with me the whole way. She was taking deep breaths around there. When I finally gave her some room there she took off. It was all her, I was just a passenger. I look forward for the rest of the year with her."
As Time Goes By, the 9-5 second choice, rallied from sixth to get second, while Golden Principal finished 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Both are trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert.
"She ruined my perfect day," joked Baffert, who took the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes Saturday with Concert Tour and sent American Pharoah half-brother Triple Tap out to a successful debut. "She's a really great mare."
The order of finish was completed by Harvest Moon, This Tea, Clockstrikestwelve, and Miss Stormy D. Sanenus was scratched.
Swiss Skydiver returned $4.80 as the 7-5 favorite. She paired her Beholder Mile win with a Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks score in 2020 to make her record 2-for-2 at Santa Anita. The Beholder is her third Grade 1 win, along with the Preakness and the 2020 Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, and her sixth graded victory. She also won the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes and the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Park Oaks in 2020.
"Yes, she met expectations, but you never know," said McPeek, who has been at Santa Anita since Swiss Skydiver shipped in from her Gulfstream Park base on Tuesday. "The distance for me was a little bit of a worry because of the run to the first turn. But Robby does know her so well, to get her in :12s, just get her into a nice rhythm, and let her make her run. You can't force anything with her, and if you go too fast early, she will wilt a little bit.
"She cruises through everything, even when she gallops. The feed tub's the biggest deal with her. I've never had a horse, colt or filly, eat like she does. It just makes my job so much easier."
Asked where Swiss Skydiver, who ran at nine different tracks in 10 races last year, might make her next start, McPeek responded: "Maybe the [Grade 1] Apple Blossom [1 1/16 mile at Oaklawn Park April 17], maybe the [Grade 1] La Troienne [1 1/16 mile at Churchill Downs April 30], one of those two."
A run in the Apple Blossom would bring Swiss Skydiver back to face champion older dirt female Monomoy Girl, who notched her second Breeders' Cup Distaff win when Swiss Skydiver finished off the board.
"Maybe we'll go hunt Monomoy Girl now — we'll see," McPeek said.
Bred by WinStar Farm out of the Johannesburg mare Expo Gold, Swiss Skydiver was a $35,000 purchase by McPeek from Select Sales' consignment to the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale. She improved her record to 7-3-1 from 13 starts, with earnings of $2,025,480.
Trish Callahan, Peter Callahan's daughter, accepted the trophy.
"I'm so proud of my dad, so proud of 'Swissy' and Kenny and his team," she said. "It's just meant the world to us this past year. We can't wait to see what this year brings because she's not done yet, she wants to run. She's just getting started."