ARCADIA — While the other six jockeys were riding horses in Saturday’s $300,000 Grade I Beholder Mile at Santa Anita, Robby Albarado was aboard something a bit more powerful.
“It’s like driving a Ferrari,” the 47-year-old jockey said in the winner’s circle after guiding the remarkable filly Swiss Skydiver to a 2 3/4-length victory as the 7-5 favorite in her first start of 2021.
The 4-year-old daughter of Daredevil continues to impress after running at nine different race tracks last year and winning two Grade I stakes en route to an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top 3-year-old filly.
It doesn’t matter if it’s Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, Saratoga or Oaklawn Park, Swiss Skydiver runs like she owns the track. Pimlico Race Course? She won the Preakness last year, beating 10 of her male counterparts in an effort as gutty as they come. She wouldn’t let Horse of the Year Authentic get by in the stretch, beating him by a neck.
“I’ve been on some phenomenal fillies … but she’s special,” Albarado said. “She breathes different air. Every time I get on her it’s different. She shows more and more improvement. She could come back this year just as good or better than last year.”
And she ships all over the country successfully. Some talented horses find it difficult to travel away from their main track and win, but Swiss Skydiver just scoffs at the notion that she should stay home.
“If they ran over broken glass she’d say, ‘No problem. Let’s do it,’” winning trainer Kenny McPeek said after she remained unbeaten in two starts at Santa Anita following last year’s victory in the Grade II Santa Anita Oaks. “Traveling is no problem. She thrives on it.”
Said Albarado: “She brings the track with her, and she’ll run on any surface. It doesn’t matter, grass or dirt. I think she’d be a great grass filly down the road, too. But we’re enjoying the ride now. She’s giving us a helluva ride.”
Swiss Skydiver, who’s won 7 of 13 starts and padded her career bankroll to $2,025,480 with Saturday’s first-place check for $180,000, was making her first start since finishing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 7 after stumbling badly at the start.
It was fitting that such a talented filly would win a stakes race named after the incomparable Beholder, who was the first horse in 40 years to win a Grade I race at age 2, 3, 4 and 5 and one of only three horses to win three Breeders’ Cup races.
Beholder beat another talented filly in her own right, Songbird, by a nose in the final race of her career in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita in one of the most memorable Breeders’ Cup races of all time.
“She’s just a machine. She’s just so fast, so talented,” McPeek said of Swiss Skydiver.
Fourth after the first quarter mile, Swiss Skydiver had improved to third around the turn and opened a 1 1/2-length lead at the head of the stretch.
The race was over at that point and the other six fillies and mares were racing for second place. As Time Goes By, the 9-5 second choice trained by Bob Baffert, got up for second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of pacesetter Golden Principal, another Baffert trainee.
Afterward, McPeek was asked what’s next for Swiss Skydiver. He said her connections will look at the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park on April 17 or the La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs on April 30.
Then McPeek got a twinkle in his eye.
“Maybe we’ll go hunt Monomoy Girl now,” he said.
San Simeon Stakes
Gregorian Chant rallied from fifth in the six-horse field of turf sprinters and beat Sombeyay by a neck in the $100,000 Grade III race for older horses.
Ridden by Juan Hernandez, the 5-year-old gelded son of Gregorian won for the fifth time in 14 starts and is 2 for 2 in turf sprints at Santa Anita for trainer Philip D’Amato.
Jolie Olimpica, a 5-year-old mare taking on the boys for trainer Richard Mandella, finished third as the even-money favorite under Mike Smith.
Winning time for the 6 furlongs over a turf course labeled “good” was 1:08.79.
Weston, a 2-year-old son of Hit It a Bomb, has turned into quite a lucrative investment for his owners, trainer Ryan Hanson and Chris Drakos.
The $7,000 yearling purchase padded his career bankroll to $120,000 Saturday, getting up in the final stride under Drayden Van Dyke to beat 32-1 longshot Girther and win the $150,000 Grade II Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar.
Weston is now 2 for 2 after winning his debut by 1 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita on June 21 and could resurface in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 7.Final time for the 6 furlongs was 1:12.72.
“The time was not very impressive, but that doesn’t matter,” Hanson said. “We’ll see how he looks tomorrow and let him tell us what to do.”
It was the first graded-stakes victory of Hanson’s career and his first stakes win of any kind at Del Mar.
“I didn’t think we were going to win it,” the 38-year-old Hanson said. “I thought we’d be second to the (trainer) Peter Miller horse (Girther), who had had a trip over the track.”
Weston, the 5-1 second betting choice, broke alertly and was second up the backstretch behind Girther and jockey Ricardo Gonzalez, who looked through much of the stretch like they’d hold on for a major upset in the major prep for the Del Mar Futurity.
But Weston dug in and gamely got up to win by a neck.
Sonic Brees finished fourth in the original order, but was elevated to third ahead of Ambivalent when the stewards disqualified the latter horse for interference early in the stretch.
“Boy, I had to work hard for that one,” Van Dyke said. “I was happy to win it for Ryan Hanson. He is such a kind man and a good horse trainer. And this horse showed some class, too.
“Ryan told me he never got to paddock him (before the race), but he was just standing in (the gate) like an old pro. I knew I got there in the end.”
Roderick, the 1-2 favored shipper from New York, failed to fire in the seven-horse field and finished last under Flavien Prat, the meet’s second-leading rider behind Umberto Rispoli.
Three races later, Bodhicitta rallied from fourth early on to win the $150,000 Grade II Yellow Ribbon Handicap by a nose over Tonahutu in the turf race for fillies and mares.
Final time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:42.83.
Ridden by Prat and trained by Richard Baltas, the 4-year-old daughter of Showcasing won for the fourth time in 15 starts and improved her career bankroll to $265,808 with the winner’s share of $90,000.
It was the first stakes victory for Bodhicitta, the 9-2 second choice in the wagering who had finished second behind Keeper Ofthe Stars in the Grade I Gamely Stakes on May 25 at Santa Anita. Previously, she was a non-threatening sixth in the ungraded Lady Shamrock Stakes at Santa Anita in December.
Harmless, a 30-1 longshot who set a dawdling pace of 24.52, 49.97 and 1:14.58, faded to finish third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Tonahutu in the seven-horse lineup. Jolie Olimpica was scratched.
Beau Recall, who won last year’s running of the Yellow Ribbon, went postward as the 6-5 favorite and finished fifth with Rispoli aboard
Prat has now won eight stakes races in the first 12 days of a meet that’s been shortened to 27 days.
“It’s (meet) been going well,” Prat said. “I’m sitting on good horses. I had a good post (No. 2) today, so I was able to get right on the fence and save ground. I knew they were going slow, but my filly has a good turn of foot and we got it done.”
Said Baltas: “The race went about like I thought it would. I didn’t see much speed in the race. She has more tactical speed than some of the horses, like Beau Recall and others who come from the back.”
Baltas indicated the $150,000 Grade II John C. Mabee Stakes on Sept. 5 might be next for Bodhicitta.
ARCADIA (CNS) – A 4-year-old colt fractured a right knee on the gallop out after the sixth race at Santa Anita Park today and was euthanized, at least the 16th horse to die in racing or training-related incidents at the track this season.
Strictly Biz was transported to the Equine Hospital following the injury. After diagnostics and x-rays were performed, it was determined to be an unrecoverable injury and, per recommendation from the attending veterinarian, was humanely euthanized, according to Santa Anita.
Strictly Biz finished sixth in the field of eight in the 5 1/2-furlong race on the turf course for 3-year-olds and up.The start was the fourth of Strictly Biz’s career. He won his debut, Sept. 7, 2018, at Los Alamitos Race Course, finished fourth in his lone start in 2019 and eighth May 15. Each of his final three races was at Santa Anita.
ARCADIA (CNS) – Last Renegade, an unraced 2-year old colt, became the 13th racehorse to die in racing or training-related incidents at Santa Anita this season when he died in a training incident on Friday.
The horse, trained by Peter Eurton, died after what was termed an accident during training, according to information posted on the California Horse Racing Board’s website.
Mike Marten, public information officer for the board, told City News Service on Saturday that Last Renegade “threw his rider, ran loose, and went over the inside rail. He was ambulanced back to his barn where he was attended by his private veterinarian but died shortly thereafter.”
A necropsy is pending, Marten said.
Racing at the track was suspended March 27 in accordance with orders from the Los Angeles County Health Department because of the coronavirus outbreak. However, Santa Anita officials said Thursday that they have submitted a written proposal to resume live racing as soon as possible to the Los Angeles County Health Department and to County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office, and are expecting a response shortly.
Los Alamitos Race Track in Cypress is the only track in California still holding live races. Twelve horse have died there this year from race- related injuries.