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ELMONT, NY – Swiss Skydiver has taken her show on the road here, there, and yonder while notching 6 graded stakes triumphs over 5 different racetracks. On Saturday, the 2020 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly will vie to reign supreme over a new oval when taking on a compact but classy field in the 53rd running of the $500,000 Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont Park.
The prestigious 1 1/16-mile test for older fillies and mares is a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifier, offering the winner an automatic entry into the Distaff on November 6 at Del Mar.
The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival runs from Thursday through Saturday, June 5, culminating with the 153rd running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) presented by NYRA Bets. The festival will encompass 17 total stakes, including eight Grade 1s on Belmont Stakes Day, capped by the “Test of the Champion” for 3-year-olds in the 1 1/2-mile final leg of the Triple Crown. First post on Belmont Stakes Day is 11:35 AM Eastern.
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Owned by Peter Callahan, Swiss Skydiver boasts a lifetime record of 14-7-3-2 and a bankroll of $2,125,480 in earnings, most notably becoming only the sixth filly in history to capture the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course. Her 6 graded stakes victories make up a cumulative 21 graded stakes triumphs in the Ogden Phipps field.
In the third start of her 3-year-old campaign, the daughter of Daredevil won her first graded stakes when taking the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in gate-to-wire fashion and began adding miles to the tank with triumphs in the Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn Park and the Santa Anita Oaks (G2). After taking a crack against males with a game second in the Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland, she recorded her first triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure with a 3 1/2-length win in the Alabama (G1) at Saratoga, where she ran a 102.
Swiss Skydiver registered her biggest claim to fame thus far 1 starts later in the Preakness. At the top of the stretch, she engaged in a dramatic stretch duel with Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Authentic and managed to fend off the subsequent Horse of the Year by a neck while recording a career-best 105 Beyer.
Trainer Kenny McPeek gave Swiss Skydiver a freshening after a seventh-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) in November at Keeneland to close out her sophomore season. She returned to action with vigor when making her 4-year-old bow a winning one in the Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita. She arrives at the Ogden Phipps off a distant third in the Apple Blossom (G1) on April 17 at Oaklawn Park.
Swiss Skydiver has put together a strong series of works heading into her upcoming engagement. She recently went a sharp 1/2-mile over the Churchill Downs main track in 47.80 seconds on Saturday morning.
“She’s been training super,” McPeek said. “We had a little hind leg infection that was bothering her. It didn’t appear to be a big deal going into Oaklawn, but it might have been why she ran a little flat that day. She’s trained like a beast going into this race. So, we’re lining up with her again. She’s obviously a great filly.
“She is pretty amazing, there’s no question,” McPeek added. “She doesn’t have many quirks and she loves her routine. She’s a very happy filly. She loves to eat, train, and has been a pleasure for the people around her. I just hope it lasts a couple of more years. She’s very low maintenance.”
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McPeek said Swiss Skydiver could target a start in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch (G1) on August 1 at Del Mar. She also could set sights on a return to the Spa for the $500,000 Personal Ensign (G1) on August 28. Like the Ogden Phipps, both races are also “Win And You’re In” events.
“The Grade 1 status and the timing for this race was ideal,” McPeek said. “We could have waited it out for the Fleur de Lis ([G2] on June 26 at Churchill Downs), but we wanted to run here. I’d like to think we could get her to the Clement Hirsch in California or the Personal Ensign.”
McPeek said Callahan, a New Yorker, has expressed excitement in watching his champion filly run at Belmont Park.
“Peter is from New York, so obviously he was interested in this race himself,” McPeek said. “We’re also looking at the Saratoga schedule. It was a big deal for Peter when we won the Alabama. We’re going to meet Peter this week and hope to enjoy another big win.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz will attempt to be the sixth jockey to pilot Swiss Skydiver to a graded stakes triumph when she breaks from the inside post.
Swiss Skydiver Strong Off The Bench In Beholder Mile
Three of Swiss Skydiver’s foes also are Grade 1 winners, including St. George Stable’s Letruska, who notched her first victory at such caliber last out in the Apple Blossom on April 16 at Oaklawn Park.
The conquest was a breakthrough one for the 5-year-old daughter of Super Saver, as she defeated two champions in Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl, the reigning Champion Older Mare. After setting the pace, she was confronted by Monomoy Girl in upper stretch but re-rallied along the rail to win by a neck.
“She’s doing very well since the Apple Blossom,” trainer Fausto Gutierrez said. “She’s trained very well at Keeneland. The first question I had was if she could fit with those kind of mares and she showed in that race that she could. She ran like a champion.”
Letruska brags the most amount of victories in the field with 13.
She scored her first 6 wins in as many starts in Mexico, where she won 2 Group 1 events. When shifting to the United States, she remained competitive at a high level with stakes triumphs in the Added Elegance at Gulfstream Park and the Shuvee (G3) at Saratoga.
Following a distant fourth in the Beldame Invitational (G2), Letruska returned 10 weeks later with a decisive win in the Rampart (G3) on December 12 at Gulfstream Park. Her career has reached new heights during her current campaign, which commenced with a sharp triumph in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) on January 31.
Gutierrez said removing blinkers ahead of the Rampart benefitted Letruska.
“After we took the blinkers off, she had more chance to relax,” Gutierrez said. “She’s more competitive. She would go very fast. She’s a filly with some natural speed. She likes to run free.”
Letruska will be reunited with Irad Ortiz Jr. from post 3.
Letruska Upsets the Apple Cart in Apple Blossom
Reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox will saddle two contestants, including 2020 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Shedaresthedevil.
Shedaresthedevil led a Daredevil-sired exacta in the Kentucky Oaks, defeating Swiss Skydiver by 1 1/2 lengths while completing the 9-furlong journey in 1:48.20 – the fastest time in the race’s history.
Owned by Flurry Racing and Qatar Bloodstock, Shedaresthedevil will seek to keep a clean 4-year-old season intact. Following a wire-to-wire win against Letruska in the Azeri (G3) at Oaklawn Park in her seasonal debut, she returned to Churchill Downs with vigor when defeating five graded stakes winners in the La Troienne (G1) on April 30.
“Off the bench, she’s 2 for 2 and was able to beat some really good horses,” Cox said. “She was able to keep her head in front of Letruska in her first start as a 4-year-old. She’s a big, beautiful filly and I think she’s moved forward from 3 to 4.”
Jockey Florent Geroux has been aboard for 4 of Shredaresthedevil’s 5 graded stakes victories and will be reunited with the talented bay filly from post 5.
Shedaresthedevil Denies All Challengers, Wins La Troienne
Cox also sends out 2-time graded stakes winner Bonny South for 3-time Ogden Phipps-winning owner Juddmonte Farm.
The daughter of Munnings won in her 2021 debut when prevailing in the Doubledogdare (G3) on April 16 at Keeneland. During her sophomore campaign last March, Bonny South made her first start against graded stakes company a winning one in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2).
Bonny South worked in company with Belmont Stakes (G1) favorite Essential Quality on May 29, going a stiff 5 furlongs in 59.40 seconds over the Churchill Downs main track.
While Shedaresthedevil boasts a more accomplished resume, Cox said Bonny South is on the improve.
“She’s been training really well and I thought her race off the layoff was huge,” Cox said. “I really feel this filly has moved forward from 3 to 4 physically, mentally, and just how she’s training. We’re expecting a big year out of her. This is going to be her 4-year-old Grade 1 debut, so with a good trip, she can be a big factor. She breezed with Essential Quality and they both breezed fantastic.”
Jockey Joel Rosario wore Juddmonte’s iconic pink, teal, and white silks when guiding Close Hatches to victory in the 2014 Ogden Phipps and has the mount from post 7.
Bonny South Holds Gamely in Exciting Edition of Doubledogdare
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher seeks his fourth Ogden Phipps victory with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Martin Schwartz, and China Horse Club’s Valiance.
The gray Tapit mare makes her 5-year-old debut having last raced when second to Monomoy Girl in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in November at Keeneland. She initially campaigned on turf, on which she won her first 3 starts,
Valiance saw an alternation of her campaign after a victory in an off-the-turf Eatontown in August at Monmouth Park. She parlayed her new-found winning dirt form into Grade 1 company, capturing the Spinster on October 4 at Keeneland by 3/4 of a length.
“I think as she improved last year, she started training better and running better on the dirt,” said Pletcher, who previously won with Ashado (2005), Life At Ten (2010), and Awesome Maria (2011). “We were happy to run her when it came off. She came out of it and started training better and better. Obviously, the Spinster was a huge win for her, and then she ran super in the Breeders’ Cup. It’s a tough race off the layoff, but she seems to be training well.”
Jockey Luis Saez will ride from post 2.
Valiance Draws off in Spinster
Completing the field are graded stakes-placed Water White (post 6, Manny Franco), who won last year’s Busher Invitational at Aqueduct for Rudy Rodriguez, and the Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained Queen Nekia (post 4, Tyler Gaffalione), an upset winner of the Royal Delta (G3) at Gulfstream Park 2 starts back.
The Ogden Phipps is carded as Race 7 on Saturday’s 13-race program at Belmont Park. First post is 11:35 AM.
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