BALTIMORE, Md.--Robby Albarado, basically washed up after multiple serious injuries and the third choice to ride Swiss Skydiver, made the critical move, diving the filly inside on the turn into the stretch, that shot the filly past the favored Authentic and into the lead in the Preakness.
Peter Callahan’s filly Swiss Skydiver beat Authentic with second-fastest time in Preakness history, becoming the sixth filly to win the 1 3/16-mile classic for 3-year-olds.
She finished in 1:53.28, second only to 1973 Triple Crown champion Secretariat’s 1:53 clocking.
In other races at Pimlico, Graham Motion had four seconds in stakes on the undercard as well as a fourth, good results but also very frustrating.
Liz Merryman had a homebred run third in one of those stakes.
SWISS SKYDIVER is the first filly since Rachel Alexandra (2009) to win the Preakness while keeping the 3-2 favorite’s trainer, Bob Baffert, from winning a record-breaking eighth Preakness.
Trained by Kenny McPeek, the 3-year-old daughter of Daredevil joined Nellie Morse (1924), Rhine Maiden (1915), Whimsical (1906), Flocarline (1903), and Rachel Alexandra as the only fillies to beat the boys in the Preakness.
“She is just a real bull," said McPeek. "She loves what she does every day. She likes to go to work. She wants to go out early because she doesn't want to wait to go out. And Robby and I have had a great week here this week. We basically flew up together. We had breakfast, lunch, dinner. I think we were rowing in the same direction and the mojo was good and it happened.”
Swiss Skydiver provided Albarado his first G1 stakes victory since 2017.
The veteran jockey, who rode Curlin to a Preakness score in 2007, has ridden more than 5,200 winners during his career, hadn’t won a graded stakes this year until Saturday.
When Tyler Gaffalione opted out of traveling to Pimlico for the Preakness, and Mike Smith couldn't get to Pimlico in time to quarantine, McPeek decided to give Albarado a shot .
“Well, I owe it all to Kenny. I mean, he believed in me still and, sorry, it's Kenny. It's all Kenny,” Albarado said. “People started thinking I can't do it anymore and Kenny was there, just when I needed someone.”
It looked like a genius decision by McPeek following his first success in the Preakness.
Albarado saved ground aboard Swiss Skydiver around the first turn and along the backstretch before easing her around tiring pacesetter Thousand Words,.
After splitting horses, Albarado sent Swiss Skydiver back to the rail, where she pulled alongside Authentic heading into the far turn and was tough enough to beat the Derby winner to the finish.
“I've had a lot of special horses in my career, but she's definitely right there at the top right now and I don't see a long time until another one does something like that to me,” McPeek said. “We work hard every day. And it's a game of failures is the thing about it. I've had actually a streak for Peter that I wasn't proud of. It seemed like we went six or seven years, and we really didn't have the kind of horses we wanted.”
Swiss Skydiver captured her fifth graded-stakes win in a season that included triumphs in the G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, the G3 Fantasy at Oaklawn, the G2 Santa Anita Oaks and the G1 Alabama at Saratoga.
She was coming off a second-place finish in the G1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs Sept. 5.
“By the backstretch, I tried to open up, but he just stood there and Swiss Skydiver came to him,” said Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who was seeking his first Preakness win aboard Authentic. “I tried to get him rolling again, but he just stayed with that other horse from the half-mile pole to the wire.”
Authentic finished 9 ¾ lengths clear of third-place finisher Jesus’ Team, who was a neck ahead of Art Collector, the 5-2 second choice.
“I was hoping he was on the lead," said Baffert. "But he got beat. He had the whole stretch to get by her. She ran a gallant race. He’s a free-running horse and likes to be on the lead. I saw he wasn’t on the lead and was struggling a little bit.”
“We had to get the lead." said Bafffert. "He runs better on the lead. He likes to be out there running fast. When I saw 24 [seconds] that’s really slow for him. That’s how he won the Derby, get him running. But Velazquez said when he went to pick it up he didn’t have it today."
McPeek said the G1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff for fillies and mares at Keeneland Nov. 7 is the likely target for Swiss Skydiver but didn’t completely rule out the G1 Breeder’s Cup Classic the same day.
MOTION had four finish second and a fifth finish fourth.
"I was please with all of them," said Motion. "But at the same time, it was very frustrating."
Ryan Mitchell's Invincible al was second by 2 1/4 lengths to Fluffy Socks in the first race, the $150,000 Selima Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
"Invincible Gal was very game," said Motion. "The going was very soft."
"Augustin Stable's Varenka was second by 1 length to Juliet Foxtrot in the $150,000, G3 Gallorette Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf in the second race, and then Woolton Asset was second by a nose to Catman in the eighth race, the $150.000 Laurel Futurity Stakes, also 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
"I just got Woolton Asset about a month ago," said Motion. "We thought we'd try him here"
In the ninth race, Alex Campbell's Bye Bye Melvin was second by a nose to Don Juan Kitten in the $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes at 1 mile on the turf.
"Bye Bye Melvin was only beaten a nose," said Motion. "That was the hardest one to lose."
There was a $50,000 bonus for the trainer who won the most amount of money with more than one horse on Preakness day, but Motion didn't know how he's done in that.
"But it's a great idea," said Motion. "I support Maryland racing, and that increases interest in it among trainers."
Motion said the Sharing, last year's Breeders' Cup 2-year-old filly winner, will probably skip the Breeders' Cup this year and will be aimed for the Matriarch in California.
Motion also had two winners on Oct. 3, Red Storm Risen in a $123,2000 Maiden Special Weight at Woodbine and Oyster Box in a $63,000 Maiden Special Weight at Belmont.
Previously, he had an Allowance winner at Keeneland on Oct. 2, Blame Debbie, and two winners on Sept. 26. Betcha by Golly in a $40,000 Maiden Special Weight at Pimlico and Candy Flower in a Maiden Claiming race at Belmont.
MERRYMAN'S homebred Caravel, who had previously won three in a row, was third in the $100,000 Hilltop Stakes on the Preakness undercard, while Motion saddled Lucky Jingle to finish fourth there.
Merryman also had a winner in Goodnight Moon in a $38,820 Allowance race at Presque Isle on Sept. 29.
Bernie Houghton had a winner for HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing's Prodigy Doll in a $28,184 Maiden Special Weight at 5 furlongs at Penn National on Oct. 2.