March 23, 2019

Switzerland sails in Maryland Sprint

Switzerland made his stakes debut a winning one in the Maryland Sprint (G3) (c) Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Switzerland parlayed a forward trip into a convincing win in Saturday’s Maryland Sprint (G3), scoring by 3 ½ lengths in his stakes debut. The 4-year-old son of Speightstown stretched his win streak to four and Ricardo Santana Jr. had the mount for Steve Asmussen, the same connections who captured the James W. Murphy earlier on the Preakness Day undercard.

Campaigned by Woodford Racing LLC, Switzerland relished the sloppy conditions and the fog didn’t bother him at Pimlico. He prompted Red Dragon Tattoo through an opening quarter-mile in :22.94 and began to edge away on the far turn, leading by a length after a half-mile in :45.69. Santana kept his mount well off the rail throughout and Switzerland entered the stretch with an expanding advantage.

He rolled home and completed 6-furlongs in 1:09.43.

The winner was off as the 5-2 second choice. Long Haul Bay, the 8-5 favorite, wound up a non-threatening second, 2 ½ lengths better than 9-2 third choice Lewisfield in third. Irish Colonel, Heartwood, Laki, Fellowship, Sonny Inspired and Red Dragon Tattoo came next under the wire.

Switzerland needed eight starts before breaking his maiden at Aqueduct on February 16. The dark bay colt was then transferred from Chad Brown to Asmussen and returned six weeks later to capture an entry-level allowance at Oaklawn Park. Last seen posting a 2 ¼-length tally over conditioned allowance foes on the Arkansas Derby (G1) undercard, Switzerland has recorded three of his wins on off tracks and earned $243,380 from an 11-4-2-3 scorecard.

“He came into the barn a fast horse, and we’ve been able to maintain that,” Asmussen said. “I think the key to today’s race was him being able to get away with going 22 4/5 the first quarter.”

“He’s a nice horse,” Santana added. “Steve told me the first time I rode him that he was going to be a special horse. Today he was really sharp, really in the bit. He broke good and I put him the spot I wanted. He showed his class.”

Bred in Kentucky by Branch Family Trust, Switzerland passed through the sales ring twice (selling for $170,000 as a weanling and $175,000 as a yearling) before being acquired for $500,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Maryland May 2-year-old sale in 2016. He’s out of the stakes-winning and multiple graded-placed Indian Charlie mare Czechers.

Asmussen and Santana will continue to team up in the next three stakes on the program, including the $1.5 million Preakness with Tenfold.

“We’re just trying to finish out the day,” Asmussen said. “As you know, we obviously have a lot on our plate here on out and hopefully it will keep up.”