Kenny McPeek has always been one to swing for the fences where competition is concerned — as long as the bold option is one that theoretically makes sense for his contenders.
So with Barn 86 at Saratoga Race Course under a 21-day quarantine implemented July 15 when an unnamed, unraced filly trained by Jorge Abreu tested positive for equine herpesvirus-1, McPeek is rerouting Swiss Skydiver — stabled in that barn along with his other Saratoga-based horses — to the Aug. 7 Whitney Stakes.
Originally slated to tackle the July 25 Shuvee Handicap, a Grade 3 race against her own division, but unable to start until after the quarantine is lifted Aug. 1, Peter J. Callahan’s champion 3-year-old filly of 2020 will now take on males for the second time in her career. Last year, she defeated eventual Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male Authentic in a Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course run in October due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve got her on ‘Go’ — she’s been ready to run,” McPeek said. “She was supposed to run on the 25th and the powers that be said ‘No,’ but everything happens for a reason, I suppose. She’s doing good and she’s probably going to get a weight break, as a filly. She’s won at Saratoga before, and I’m not sure that it’s a group of older horses to be shaking in your shoes over.”
Swiss Skydiver last ran in the April 17 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park, where she was third behind Letruska and Monomoy Girl. That race was her second start of the season following a victory in the March 13 Beholder Mile Stakes at Santa Anita Park. Most recently, she was scratched from the June 5 Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont Park after running a fever.
“We need to get her back on form, and I was really hoping the Shuvee was going to be a place to launch her second half of the season, but maybe the Whitney will be,” McPeek said. “If she doesn’t run well, we’ll either bring her back in the Personal Ensign [Presented by Lia Infiniti on Aug. 28] or aim her at the [Juddmonte] Spinster [Oct. 10 at Keeneland].
“I’m just hopeful there’s no problem with the quarantine.”
The 4-year-old daughter of Daredevil is slated to work July 24, McPeek said. She last went four furlongs in an easy :52.50 on the Oklahoma Training Track at Saratoga, following up a bullet move at the same distance July 3 in :48.08, fastest of 25 at the distance on the training track that day.
Six fillies have won the Whitney: Black Maria (1928), Bateau (1929), Esposa (1937), Gallorette (1948), Lady’s Secret (1986), and Personal Ensign (1988). The 1 1/8-mile test is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event for the Nov. 6 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar, granting the winner a fees-paid berth to the grand finale of the season.
Plans have also been derailed for McPeek trainee Crazy Beautiful, impressive back-to-back winner of the July 3 Delaware Oaks and May 30 Summertime Oaks. The 3-year-old daughter of Liam’s Map was to target the July 24 Coaching Club American Oaks on dirt en route to the Aug. 21 Alabama Stakes, but could now run in the Aug. 8 Saratoga Oaks Invitational on turf instead.
“They’re going to invite her to the Saratoga Oaks, but I can’t go to the Saratoga Oaks and run her back in the Alabama because it’s too tight,” McPeek said. “I’m not going to rule out the Saratoga Oaks, if it comes out the right group. She broke her maiden on the grass, she’ll run on it, it’s not a problem. Is that my first choice? No, my first choice would have been the Coaching Club American Oaks. I’m going to look at the past performances and make a decision then.”