Trainer Kenny McPeek said he will look to give champion filly Swiss Skydiver a second triumph against males in the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney Stakes on Aug. 7 at Saratoga.
The historic nine-furlong event offers a “Win And You’re In” berth to the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
Owned by Peter Callahan, the 4-year-old daughter of Daredevil bested the boys in last year’s Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, where she became only the sixth filly to win the American classic.
Swiss Skydiver has registered two starts this year, shipping to the west coast to capture the Grade 1 Beholder Mile on March 13 at Santa Anita ahead of a distant third to Letruska in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom on April 17 at Oaklawn Park.
Initially entered in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park, Swiss Skydiver scratched from the race when spiking a temperature. With sights set on the Grade 3 Shuvee on July 25, McPeek had to alter course when NYRA and the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) placed Barn 86 at Saratoga under a precautionary quarantine on July 15 due to a positive case of Equine Herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) in that barn.
McPeek said Swiss Skydiver is ready for a second triumph against males.
“She had some hiccups in the spring,” McPeek said. “She had a hind leg infection which contributed to her uncharacteristic run at Oaklawn, and she had a fever when we shipped to Belmont. We’re hoping to get into a little rhythm with her and I’m looking forward to running her.”
Swiss Skydiver has notched six graded stakes victories, dating back to last March when taking the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks in gate-to-wire fashion. From there, she added miles to the tank with triumphs in the Grade 3 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park last May and the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks last June.
After making her first start against males with a game second in the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland last July, she recorded her first triple-digit Beyer with a 3 ½-length win in the Grade 1 Alabama in August in her lone start at the Spa, where she posted a 102 Beyer.
“Throughout the time I’ve had her, she’s gone from a girl to a woman. She’s as attractive as ever and maybe more so now,” McPeek said. “From two to three to four, you never know how they’re going to evolve but she’s doing everything right. She’s bigger in her shoulder and her hip at this stage. She’ s always been an extremely intelligent filly. She’s a happy horse and still loves her job.”
A Whitney triumph would make Swiss Skydiver the seventh female to strike gold in the prestigious event for older horses. The most recent Whitney victress was Ogden Phipps’ undefeated Hall of Famer Personal Ensign in 1988.
McPeek selected Swiss Skydiver for $35,000 from Select Sales consignment barn at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Through a career of 14-7-3-2, she has amassed $2,125,480.
“We’ll see if she can pull it off. I think she should have a real good second half of the year,” McPeek said. “She’s already got a Grade 1 this year which is good. Good horses ship well. Trainers like Todd (Pletcher) do it a lot, but good horses can and will ship well. We’re blessed to have some quality stock in the barn.”