Editor’s Note: This article by the Lexington Herald-Leader and can be viewed here.
The filly Swiss Skydiver turned back Kentucky Derby winner Authentic at the wire on Saturday to give trainer Kenny McPeek, a Lexington native, his first victory in the $1 million Preakness Stakes at Baltimore, Md.
“Just a real honor to be around a horse like this. A special honor,” McPeek told NBC after the race. “This is a lifetime experience.”
This year’s Triple Crown schedule was shuffled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The race normally scheduled last, the Belmont Stakes, went first this year, and Tiz the Law won it on June 20. The Kentucky Derby, which usually goes first, came next, with Authentic claiming the roses on Sept. 5.
Swiss Skydiver became only the sixth filly to win the Preakness, joining Rachel Alexandra (2009), Nellie Morse (1924), Rhine Maiden (1915), Whimsical (1906) and Flocarline (1903). Only 55 have tried since the race began in 1873. Swiss Skydiver, owned by Peter Callahan and ridden by Robbie Albarado, became only the 12th female horse to win a Triple Crown race.
The Preakness was the second Triple Crown victory for McPeek, who captured the 2002 Belmont with Sarava. Swiss Skydiver was the first filly to run the race since 2014, when Ria Antonia finished last.
Swiss Skydiver, who went off at 11-1 odds, paid $25.40 to win, $8.40 to place and $5.80 to show. Authentic, the 3-2 favorite, paid $3.60 to place and $3.20 to show. Jesus’ Team, a 40-1 shot, captured third place and paid $12.20 to show.
Swiss Skydiver avenged her loss to Art Collector in her only other competition against colts, when she finished second in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on July 11. She since won the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 15 and finished second in the Kentucky Oaks on Sept. 4.
Art Collector, the 2-1 second choice, finished fourth.
Swiss Skydiver beating Authentic and Thousand Words denied trainer Bob Baffert what would have been a record-breaking eighth Preakness win. Baffert was looking for his 17th victory in a Triple Crown race.
The Preakness was run with only owners, trainers and essential personnel in attendance, a far cry from the usual mid-May party with patrons in fancy hats and suits in some areas of the track and revelers in shorts and T-shirts in the infield.
Even after canceling the annual infield concert and festivities, the Maryland Jockey Club and Stronach Group that owns Pimlico hoped back in the spring that moving the race to the fall would allow for the possibility of having fans. Instead, all three Triple Crown races — run out of order for the first time since the 1930s — went on without them.
There was also no Triple Crown sweep for the 40th time in the past 42 years, when Authentic beat Belmont winner Tiz the Law in the Derby. Trainer Bob Baffert wheeled Authentic back for the Preakness, but a rematch will have to wait for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7 at Keeneland after Barclay Tagg gave Tiz the Law a rest to point him to that $6 million race.
The complete order of finish after Swiss Skydiver, Authentic, Jesus’ Team and Art Collector was Max Player, Excession, Mr. Big News, Thousand Words, Ny Traffic, Pneumatic and Liveyourbeastlife.