This year, though the 145th Preakness card was run in October and not two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, it was a rousing success. The capstone being the wire finish between Derby champ Authentic (3-2) and the filly, Swiss Skydiver (11-1). For the first time since Rachael Alexandra in 2009, a filly won the Preakness.
With COVID-19 affecting race scheduling, the decision was made to take most of the traditional Friday card that encompassed Black-Eyed Susan Day and move those races to Saturday. This created an all-stakes card that top to bottom presented a diverse set of options for the wagering public. For example, the Black-Eyed Susan saw the upset of favorite Bonny South (3/5), who was upset by Miss Marissa (10-1). As for the Preakness itself, the WPS handle was $9,835,311. That, coupled with an impressive set of races at Keeneland, made for a Super Saturday feeling to the race day.
The Preakness was a thrilling spectacle and is worth re-watching. No one would have predicted that the shape of this race would go the way it did. But that’s racing. With a clean break, as they went past the Grandstand at Pimlico, no one wanted the lead. You could see Robby Alvarado, the replacement jockey for Kenny McPeek’s Swiss Skydiver, glance over at Authentic, not wanting to commit to taking him on. What about Art Collector, the other frontend runner? Not up front…and by the backstretch, unusually placed from where he likes to be. Once they entered the backside, the same could be said for Swiss Skydiver. For about half the race, Authentic was in firm control. He reached 10,000 feet with no turbulence--cruising. It looked like it was going to be a beautiful, easy ride, and it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Preakness was his. Then, something happened.
Robby Alvarado, the jockey who had not ridden in a race of this magnitude for some time, saw an opening. Not far back from the leader, he pushed his horse’s button, the time arrived. He took it! Knowing that Authentic liked to stay off the rail, Alvarado cruised her up alongside the left of John Velasquez, and the match race was on. That move on the back, that decision, was brilliant. It allowed Swiss Skydiver the opportunity to go head to head with Authentic down the stretch. The result, by less than a head, at the wire came and went—Skydiver had won, rewarding patrons with the following payouts: $25.40W, $8.40P, $5.80S.
Now the fun truly begins. Will we see another Authentic v. Swiss Skydiver faceoff in the Breeders’ Cup Classic next month at Keeneland? What about Skydiver’s next start, will that include jockey Robby Alvarado? Questions abound since she could fit into the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. After the win, Kenny McPeek said that the Classic distance would probably be a much better spot for his talented filly. It would be a titanic matchup to see her take on the boys in the Classic, and go up against some of Bob Baffert’s older horses, Improbable and Maximum Security, and of course, also Authentic.
Whatever race she enters, Swiss Skydiver proved that girl power rules! What a story for Preakness 145 during a very challenging year for Thoroughbred racing.