March 23, 2023

Swiss Skydiver faces six in Alabama

Swiss Skydiver
Swiss Skydiver winning the Santa Anita Oaks (Benoit Photo)

After a good second in the Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland, Swiss Skydiver will return to the 3-year-old filly ranks in Saturday’s $500,000 Alabama (G1) at Saratoga. The three-time graded stakes winner will stretch out to 1 1/4 miles against six challengers, and Tyler Gaffalione will substitute for Mike Smith aboard the favorite. Kenny McPeek trains the daughter of Daredevil.

The Alabama shapes up as an expected Kentucky Oaks prep for Swiss Skydiver, but connections haven’t ruled out the Kentucky Derby a day later. The chestnut has enough points (40) to contest the Derby via her clear second to Art Collector in the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass, and the forwardly-placed filly takes her track with her, winning the Santa Anita Oaks (G2), Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn Park this season. Swiss Skydiver breaks from an ideal spot in post 5 Saturday.

As a major qualifier for the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks, the Alabama will award 170 points (100-40-20-10) to the top four. It’s also a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Keeneland on Nov. 7.

Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) runner-up Crystal Ball is eligible to move forward in her second stakes attempt for Bob Baffert. A convincing maiden winner at Santa Anita two back, the front-running Malibu Moon filly dueled through the stretch against the now-sidelined Paris Lights before coming up a head short last time. Crystal Ball will show speed from post 3 with Javier Castellano.

Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) winner Bonny South will try to rebound from a well-beaten fourth in the July 11 Ashland (G1) at Keeneland. The late runner makes her second start off the freshening for Brad Cox after returning from a near four-month hiatus last time, and Irad Ortiz Jr. takes over the reins. Harvey’s Lil Goil, a convincing winner of the Busanda S. at Aqueduct earlier this year, will go turf-to-dirt for Bill Mott following a gutsy win in the June 27 Regret (G3) at Churchill Downs. Junior Alvarado has the assignment.

Grade 2 runner-up Spice Is Nice tuned up for her third stakes start with a sharp 2 3/4-length allowance win over the track on July 3. John Velazquez will be up for Todd Pletcher. McPeek will also send out Envoutante, who makes her second graded stakes appearance following a decent third in the Ashland. Jose Ortiz rides. Allowance winner Fire Coral completes the field.