HOT SPRINGS, AR – Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver dug deep and outdueled the heavily-backed Venetian Harbor in deep stretch to win Friday’s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park.
Breaking well from post 3 at 16/1 odds under Brian Hernandez, Jr., Swiss Skydiver tucked in behind Venetian Harbor before settling into second heading into the clubnhouse turn. Venetian Harbor, the 4/5 favorite, struck out to a length early lead while posting opening fractions of :22.25, :45.43, and 1:09.67.
Swiss Skydiver tipped off the rail midway down the backside and began working her way up to the front, taking Venetian Harbor on as they entered the far turn. Up alongside the pacesetter at the top of the stretch, Swiss Skydiver challenged Venetian Harbor, who responded by putting her head back in front as the rest of the field fell off behind them.
At the 1/16 pole, Swiss Skydiver re-bid and soon shot to the lead, then drew off in hand late to cross the wire first. The Kenny McPeek trainee completed the 1 1/16-mile event over the fast main track in a final time of 1:42.00.
“We had the perfect trip,” said Hernandez, Jr. “The filly broke good and she put herself in a good spot. We had the favorite in front of us the whole way, but going around the second turn, she really got within herself and traveled nicely. Turning for home, I had confidence in her because I just asked her for the next gear and she went on and put the big favorite away and did it with authority. Turning for home, I looked over and thought I had a little more horse than (Venetian Harbor). When I got her to switch leads, she jumped off and really picked it up nicely.”
Venetian Harbor’s undefeated streak came to an end, though she and jockey Flavien Prat were 10 3/4 lengths clear of the remaining runners.
“She had a good trip,” Prat said. “The winner came to us at the 1/4 pole, and for a second, I thought I could hold on, but she got tired the last 1/16 (of a mile).”
Shedaresthedevil came along eventually, crossing a 1/2-length clear of Alta’s Award in fourth. Fire Coral was fifth, while Lazy Daisy necked out the dead-heating duo of Ring Leader and Lake Avenue. Jockey David Cohen, aboard Lazy Daisy, lodged an objection against Alta’s Award’s and rider Ricardo Santana, Jr., alleging interference in the stretch, but his claim was ultimately dismissed.
Completing the order of finish came Ice Princess, British Idiom, Harvey’s Lil Goil, Kansas Kis, New York Groove, and Lady Glamour.
The Fantasy is part of the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Oaks prep race season. Swiss Skydiver earned 100 points for the win, with Venetian Harbor receiving 40 for second, Shedaresthedevil 20 for third, and Alta’s Award 10 for fourth.
Swiss Skydiver’s win was her second straight, having championed the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) on March 28 for her first stakes score. The 3-year-old daughter of Daredevil, purchased for $35,000 as a yearling, improved her record to 6-3-1-1 with $437,980 earned.
“She’s very tactical,” McPeek said. “We had a hard time getting a two-turn race for her as a 2-year-old. We ran her short three times. When we finally got to run her longer, she’s been as good as it gets.”
Swiss Skydiver returned $34.20 to win, $10 to place, and $5.80 to show. Venetian Harbor brought back $3.80 to place and $3.20 to show, while Shedaresthedevil paid $4.40 to show.