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ARCADIA, CA – In what essentially amounted to a well-paid stroll in the (Santa Anita) Park, Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver was a handy winner of Saturday’s $200,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G2).
Breaking from the rail under Mike Smith as the prohibitive 3/5 favorite, Swiss Skydiver went right to the lead and Smith hit the cruise control button on her steering wheel heading into the clubhouse turn. Merneith raced closest of the three rivals as Swiss Skydiver posted opening fractions of :22.92, :46.55, and 1:10.82.
Smith let out a notch on the reins heading into the far turn, and the race was practically over from there. Coasting the length of the stretch as her rivals proved no impact whatsoever, Swiss Skydiver crossed 4 lengths clear with her ears pricked.
The Kenny McPeek trainee completed the 1 1/16-mile fast main track route in 1:43.20.
“When a horse puts their ears forward like that, that means there usually is something left in the tank,” Smith said. “They are kind of taking a breather, looking at things. When I tightened the reins up, she really accelerated. I kept busy until the eighth pole and really, she was on cruise control after that. She’s an extremely talented filly.”
Speech took second by 7 1/4 lengths ahead of the Bob Baffert-trained pair of Merneith and Regal Beauty to complete the order of finish in the short field. Smiling Shirlee was announced as a scratch shortly after entries were released.
“That filly (Swiss Skydiver) is a super filly,” Baffert said. “I was hoping for an easy lead, but we couldn’t get the lead. Mike Smith is so good from the one hole. He got the jump on us and that was it.”
The Santa Anita Oaks is part of the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Oaks prep race season. Swiss Skydiver earned 100 points for the win, with Speech receiving 40 for second, Merneith 20 for third, and Regal Beauty 10 for fourth.
Swiss Skydiver’s win was her third straight following similar strong scores in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and the Fantasy Stakes (G3). The 3-year-old Daredevil filly improved her record to 7-4-1-1 with $557,980 earned, a healthy return on the $35,000 that McPeek paid for her as a yearling.
“She’s good, just keeps getting better too,” said McPeek, who flew in from his Churchill Downs base on Friday just to see Swiss Skydiver run. “I was reluctant to bring her. We thought maybe we ought to wait for the Ashland ([G1], a Kentucky Oaks prep at Keeneland in July) with a short field and everything. She’s easy to be around, she loves to run. They asked me to bring her vet records (and) I said, ‘There aren’t any!'”
Swiss Skydiver returned $3.20 to win and $2.10 to place, while Speech paid $2.20 to place. There was no show betting.
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