Robby Albarado has gained the call from trainer Kenny McPeek to ride Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness Stakes.
The filly has won four of her last six starts, including the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga in mid-August.
Swiss Skydiver then finished second under Tyler Gaffalione in the Kentucky Oaks at the start of this month, unable to peg back the Brad Cox-trained winner, Shedaresthedevil.
McPeek watched Swiss Skydiver go through her paces at Churchill Downs on Saturday in a workout, after which he confirmed she will take on the boys in the Preakness at Pimlico on October 3rd.
The handler has stated some regret as to what unfolded in the Kentucky Oaks and he’s keen on securing a better draw for the Preakness.
“It will be interesting to see where she draws,” McPeek said. “I think she runs better from the outside, and I think drawing the one-hole cost her the Oaks. I think she got pinned down in there, and if my rider had stayed inside, he probably would have won. But he went around. Hindsight is 20/20. It is what it is.”
Swiss Skydiver will ship to Maryland from Kentucky on Tuesday ahead of the Preakness. McPeek expects his filly to handle both track and trip at Pimlico with no concerns.
Albarado, who won the Preakness in 2007 aboard future Hall of Famer Curlin, takes over in the saddle on a filly that already mixed it with the males when second to another leading Preakness fancy, Art Collector, in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in July.
McPeek has had to weigh up his options before committing to the Preakness and, on balance, he feels it is the right race to go for.
“I know she will make the distance without any problem,” McPeek said. “I think she will like that racetrack. Of course, she has raced everywhere. Whatever racetrack she has raced over she has handled great.
“It was a tough call between racing against straight three-year-olds or older fillies and mares or turf, which was briefly thought about. I think she will handle it fine.
“My preference would have been if they wrote a race back like the Alabama back for this week. But that doesn’t exist. There are no three-year-old filly Grade 1s. She gets a little bit of weight off, and she’s continuing to do good.”
Having a filly good enough to contest the Preakness isn’t an opportunity that rolls around too often and McPeek acknowledges that victory at Pimlico would significantly increase Swiss Skydiver’s profile and put her in the mix for year-end recognition.
“I think if she wins a race like this, you’ve got to include her (as) possible Horse of the Year,” McPeek added. “She’s danced every dance and she’s been hickory and she had entertained the fan base like probably no filly in years. I think it’s a chance to make history.”