Swiss Skydiver wears down Venetian Harbor in Fantasy

May 01, 2020 Vance Hanson/

With limited opportunities across the country, Friday's $400,000 Fantasy (G3) attracted a full gate of 14 3-year-old fillies. However, the 1 1/16-mile Road to the Kentucky Oaks prep proved just a two-horse race when Swiss Skydiver and odds-on favorite Venetian Harbor ran one-two while finishing more than 10 lengths clear of the rest of the field.

A tracking second under Brian Hernandez Jr. as Venetian Harbor sped to uncontested lead through fast splits of :22.25, :45.43, and 1:09.67, Swiss Skydiver advanced on the favorite approaching the quarter pole and the pair soon separated themselves from the rest of the pack turning for home.

Venetian Harbor dug in gamely for as long as she could, but the hot pace proved too much and Swiss Skydiver drew off late to win by 2 1/2 lengths in a snappy 1:42 over a fast track.

Owned by Peter Callahan and trained by Kenny McPeek, Swiss Skydiver paid $34.20. Following Venetian Harbor under the wire in third and fourth, respectively, were Shedaresthedevil and Alta's Award, who had run one-two in the Mar. 7 Honeybee (G3). Finishing ninth was reigning juvenile filly champion British Idiom. The top four finishers earned Oaks qualifying points of 100-40-20-10.

Swiss Skydiver now has 210 qualifying points for the Oaks. She had previously earned 100 for her 3 1/4-length upset of the Mar. 28 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and 10 for her third-place effort in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) back in February. Those two races were her first two-turn attempts.

'We ran her short three times. When I finally got her long she's been good as it gets,' McPeek said.

Swiss Skydiver won on debut at Churchill Downs by 5 1/2 lengths going 7 furlongs, finished a close second in a one-turn mile allowance, and was a closing fifth in the 7-furlong Gasparilla S. at Tampa Bay Downs prior to the Rachel Alexandra.

Like the rest of the Oaks hopefuls around the country, Swiss Skydiver will be in a holding pattern for awhile as tracks gradually return to operation and reschedule stakes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

'I'd love to think they'd reschedule the Ashland (G1), maybe so it sets up for the Oaks,' said McPeek, referring to Keeneland's leading prep that was cancelled along with the rest of that meet in April.

Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm and a $35,000 Keeneland September purchase, Swiss Skydiver is by Daredevil and out of Expo Gold, by Johannesburg.

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