Veteran jockey Robby Albarado made a bold move going into the far turn with the extraordinarily talented Swiss Skydiver to challenge, pass, and then hold off far-more-favored Kentucky Derby winner Authentic in the stretch to take the 2020 Preakness and her lioness’ share of the $1 million purse. Her time was 1:53.28, which was fast, and she went off at a respectable 11-1. Confounding virtually every handicapper out there, and delighting the players who had him, the 40-1 long shot Jesus’ Team showed, admirably ahead of second-favorite Art Collector.
Swiss Skydiver paid a very respectable $25.40 to win, Authentic paid an expectedly low $3.30 to place, and Jesus’ Team paid $12.20 in show. The $2 exacta paid a very tidy $75.60, and Jesus’ Team rained manna from heaven on the holders of even just a $1 trifecta with a return on that bet of $1205.70.
It was, ironically, Authentic’s race for much of the way. He broke well and moved into the front on the backstretch, and although he held firm into and through the far turn, he found he could not hold his front-running style against the stretch onslaught of Swiss Skydiver.
The win puts Swiss Skydiver automatically in the Breeders’ Cup in November. If she and her connections take the Breeders’ up on the invite, the history-making come-from-behind running style of the horse will be a sharp addition to that larger, tougher, more moneyed race. She brought a superb run today, and with classic panache, not panicking or getting beyond herself in the gritty stretch duel. Swiss Skydiver simply concentrated on the work at hand and beat that boy, delivering the sort of victory that will carry a lasting sting for Authentic’s connections. A fifth of a second separated the two athletes at the wire, yet the victory seemed far more decisive than the skinny margin would suggest. In fact Swiss Skydiver looked like she had more run in her.
“She never gets tired,” said trainer Kenny McPeek of his athlete shortly after she had received the blanket of black-eyed Susans in the winner’s circle, as, per tradition, the winning colors were immediately painted atop the Pimlico weather vane.
For his part, the 2020 Preakness was not a race that Bob Baffert, the storied trainer of the favored Derby winner, will easily forget. Baffert had instructed John Velasquez to touch his mount in the stretch with his left hand, Velasquez promised Baffert that his left hand was his strong one, and exactly that, in this stretch duel, was not enough to coax Authentic past the ragingly fast Swiss Skydiver once she had passed him. The wire came and went in a flash, with Authentic still looking a little like he couldn’t believe what had just happened.
Nobody else could, either. Precisely that is what made Swiss Skydiver’s win such a fine, and much-needed, boost for the Preakness and for the sport.