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.
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