BALTIMORE — Filly Swiss Skydiver added another memorable moment to cap off a topsy-turvy Triple Crown season.
Jockey Robby Albarado made a power move to pass favored Authentic around the far turn, and Swiss Skydiver went head to head and beat him by a neck after a stretch duel in the Preakness Stakes run without fans Saturday. She’s the sixth filly and first since Rachel Alexandra in 2009 to win the Preakness, which this year served as the third leg of the Triple Crown for the first time.
“She’s just such a special filly,” said trainer Kenny McPeek, who won the Preakness for the first time for his second Triple Crown race victory. “Just a real honor to be around a horse like this.”
At odds of 11-1, Swiss Skydiver pulled off an upset of 3-2 favorite Authentic, who came in off winning the Kentucky Derby. It became a two-horse race with the rest of the field 10 lengths behind. Swiss Skydiver’s owner, Peter J. Callahan, is a New York City native and an alumnus of St. Francis Prep High School.
Jesus’ Team was a distant third at 40-1 and Art Collector fourth at 2-1. The 145th running of the Preakness at a mostly empty Pimlico Race Course came four weeks after the Kentucky Derby and 3 1/2 months since the Belmont as they were held out of order for the first time since the 1930s.
McPeek won a Triple Crown race for the first time since 2002 Belmont with Sarava, which was the biggest upset in the history of that race. Swiss Skydiver was the first filly to run the race since 2014, when Ria Antonia finished last.
“I didn’t feel like that much tension,” McPeek said. “I feel like we had her well-prepared.”
Albarado got rid of any tension more than halfway through, taking the chance given to him by John Velazquez when Authentic’s Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez abandoned the rail.
“I had an opportunity,” said Albarado, who won his second Preakness after 2007 aboard Curlin. “I took advantage of the rail. Johnny stayed off the fence there, made a conscious decision to move at that time. Give or take now. If I make that move now or I wait and get smothered.”
Swiss Skydiver avenged her loss in her only other competition against colts, when she finished second to Art Collector in the Blue Grass Stakes on July 11. She since won the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 15 and finished second in the Kentucky Oaks on Sept. 4.
“She continues to get stronger, and it’s amazing,” McPeek said. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years and you’re around horses and sometimes you run them and they come back tired. She never gets tired. If anything, she makes me tried dragging me around the barn every day.”
Swiss Skydiver beating Authentic and Thousand Words denied trainer Bob Baffert what would have been a record-breaking eighth Preakness win. Baffert was looking for his 17th victory in a Triple Crown race.
The Preakness was run with only owners, trainers and essential personnel in attendance, a far cry from the usual mid-May party with patrons in fancy hats and suits in some areas of the track and revelers in shorts and T-shirts in the infield.
Even after canceling the annual infield concert and festivities, the Maryland Jockey Club and Stronach Group that owns Pimlico hoped back in the spring that moving the race to the fall would allow for the possibility of having fans. Instead, all three Triple Crown races — run out of order for the first time since the 1930s — went on without them.
There was also no Triple Crown sweep for the 40th time in the past 42 years, when Authentic beat Belmont winner Tiz the Law in the Derby. Baffert wheeled Authentic back for the Preakness, but a rematch will have to wait for the Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 7 after Barclay Tagg gave Tiz the Law a rest to point him to that $6 million race.