(Swiss Skydiver at Santa Anita / Photo Courtesy of Santa Anita)
From the NYRA Media Team:
Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver has established herself as one of the leading 3-year-old fillies in the country. On Saturday, she will attempt to build on her form in the 140th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Alabama going 1 ¼-miles over the main track at Saratoga Race Course.
The prestigious event for sophomore fillies honors horse owner William Cottrell, who was too modest to have a race named after himself and requested that instead it be named after his home state of Alabama. As one of the oldest American stakes races for females, the historic test has seen many notable winners over the years, including Hall of Famers Miss Woodford (1883), Beldame (1904), Top Flight (1932), Tempted (1958), Gamely (1967), Mom’s Command (1985), Go for Wand (1990), Sky Beauty (1993), Heavenly Prize (1994), Silverbulletday (1999) and Royal Delta (2011).
The Alabama is a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifying event, which offers an automatic berth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 7 at Keeneland Race Course. NBC will have live coverage of the Grade 1 Alabama [Race 9, 5:43 p.m.] and the $500,000 Saratoga Derby [Race 8, 5:07 p.m.], first leg of the Turf Triple series for 3-year-olds, from 5-6 p.m. Eastern.
Trained by Kenny McPeek, who saddled Eskimo Kisses to a win in the 2018 edition, Swiss Skydiver arrives at the Alabama off a runner-up finish against colts in the Grade 2 Blue Grass on July 11 at Keeneland, where she finished a game second to Art Collector.
This season, the daughter of second crop sire Daredevil has put together a ledger which includes three graded stakes triumphs over three different tracks, taking the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks on March 28, the Grade 3 Fantasy on May 1 at Oaklawn Park and the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks on June 6.
“Once we got her going to two turns, she really figured it out and it clicked,” McPeek said. “The further she goes, the stronger she gets. She’s been a real sturdy filly. She eats really well and she’s easy to be around. The Alabama is a great race. It’s a race I’ve won before and I would love to win it again.”
Swiss Skydiver was purchased for $35,000 by McPeek at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, from the Select Sales consignment. She is out of the Johannesburg broodmare Expo Gold.
“I don’t get enamored with pedigrees, I get enamored with the bodies,” McPeek said. “She just had a fantastic hip and balance. She was a filly that had all the right parts in all the right places. I’ve stuck with that MO for decades.”
With a record of 8-4-2-1, Swiss Skydiver is the most seasoned filly in the field and boasts the highest amount of lifetime earnings with $677,980.
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who piloted Paris Lights to a Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks win on July 18, will attempt to sweep both two-turn Grade 1 events for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga as he climbs aboard Swiss Skydiver from post 5.
McPeek also sends out up-and-coming filly Envoutante for Walking L Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm.
The dark bay daughter of Uncle Mo is still in search of her first career stakes win, but acquired Grade 1 black type last out with a third-place finish to Speech in the Grade 1 Ashland on July 11 at Keeneland.
Third time was the charm for Envoutante, who broke her maiden going 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Park on April 2 and defeated winners two starts later going the same distance at Churchill Downs.
“This filly is sitting on her biggest race,” McPeek said. “She’s a filly that has done everything right and we have been pointing to this race for a while. I think the mile and a quarter will hit her right on the head. It’s unfortunate that I’ve got to run them against each other, but she’s going to run well.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz will attempt his fourth straight victory in the Alabama when piloting Envoutante from post 1.
McPeek said a strong run from both fillies would likely result in a start in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on September 4 at Churchill Downs. The Alabama offers 100-40-20-10 qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
“We’re still pointing both of them to the Oaks. The timing is a bit tricky this year, but it is what it is,” McPeek said.
A week after sending out Gamine to a monstrous triumph in the Grade 1 Longines Test, Hall of Fame Bob Baffert will seek another Grade 1 win at the Spa with Crystal Ball, who breaks from post 3.
Owned by WinStar Stablemates, the bay daughter of Malibu Moon made a big jump up in class last out when finishing a game second to Paris Lights in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks off a 6 ¼-length maiden victory.
Purchased for $750,000 as a 2-year-old from the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select Sale in March 2019, Crystal Ball is out of the Giant’s Causeway broodmare Déjà Vu, who is a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Madcap Escapade and Dubai Escapade.
Crystal Ball will be ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, a three-time Alabama winner.
Harvey’s Lil Goil will look to give Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his fourth Alabama win when she seeks to become a graded stakes winner on both dirt and turf.
Owned by the Estate of Harvey A. Clarke and Paul Braverman, Harvey’s Lil Goil won the Grade 3 Regret on June 27 over the turf at Churchill Downs in her most recent effort, and took the Busanda over the main track at Aqueduct two starts prior.
Harvey’s Lil Goil will attempt to give her 2015 Triple Crown-winning second crop sire American Pharoah his first Grade 1 win as a stallion and is out of the Tapit broodmare Gloria S. – a half-sister to 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another.
Harvey’s Lil Goil will leave from post 6 under Junior Alvarado.
Robert and Lawana Low’s Spice Is Nice makes her Grade 1 debut in the Alabama for trainer Todd Pletcher, who trained Princess of Sylmar (2013) and Stopchargingmaria (2014) to Alabama victories.
The well-bred chestnut daughter of Curlin out of the Grade 1-winning Bernardini mare Dame Dorothy won a first level allowance optional claiming event on July 3 going a one-turn mile-and-a-sixteenth at Belmont Park last out. Spice Is Nice made a dazzling career debut when besting a field of maidens by a dozen lengths at Gulfstream Park en route to a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Davona Dale at the South Florida oval.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, a three-time winner of the Alabama, will pilot Spice Is Nice from post 2.
Juddmonte Farms’ Bonny South will attempt to add a second graded stakes victory to her resume for trainer Brad Cox.
The chestnut Munnings filly won the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 21 before a distant fourth in the Grade 1 Ashland.
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Bonny South from post 4.
Rounding out the field is Susan Moulton’s Fire Coral for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. The daughter of Curlin broke her maiden at second asking on January 31 at Oaklawn Park en route to a 3 ½-length score against allowance optional claiming company at the Arkansas oval.
Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. was aboard both of Fire Coral’s career wins and will be back aboard from post 7.
The Alabama is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 11-race card, which offers a first post of 1:10 p.m. Eastern.Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.