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Swiss Skydiver Takes on the Boys in Field of 13 in Saturday’s $600,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes

July 8, 2020

Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver will try to put herself on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail Saturday when she takes on males in a field of 13 horses entered for the 96th running of the $600,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2) for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on Keeneland’s main track.

A major steppingstone for the $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve to be run Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs, the Toyota Blue Grass offers 170 points toward qualification to this year’s Derby with 100 points going to the winner, 40 to the runner-up, 20 to third place and 10 points to fourth. The Derby is limited to the top 20 point earners that pass the entry box.

This year’s Toyota Blue Grass, which marks the 25th year the race has been sponsored by Toyota, will go as the ninth race on Saturday’s 10-race program with a 5:30 p.m. ET post time. First post for the card that features six graded stakes is 1:05 p.m.

Trained by two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Kenny McPeek, Swiss Skydiver will be seeking her initial Kentucky Derby points in her first test against males. She has won three graded stakes this year and compiled 310 points toward the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) to be run Sept. 4.

Winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), Fantasy (G3) and Santa Anita Oaks (G2) in her past three starts, Swiss Skydiver will get a 5-pound weight allowance Saturday and carry 118 pounds in the Toyota Blue Grass. Mike Smith has the mount and will break from post position seven.

Smith is a two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner, having scored in 1993 with Prairie Bayou and 1994 with Holy Bull.

No filly has won the Toyota Blue Grass and only one filly has run in the race since it debuted at Keeneland during the track’s inaugural Spring Meet in April 1937. She is Hyman Friedberg’s homebred Harriet Sue, who in 1944 won the Ashland and next was fifth to Skytracer in the Blue Grass. That year, Keeneland’s Spring Meet was held at Churchill Downs.

In 1948, future Hall of Famer Bewitch was scratched from the Blue Grass.

Another accomplished runner in the field is Jackpot Farm’s Basin. Winner of the Runhappy Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga and most recently second in a division of the Arkansas Derby (G1), Basin ranks ninth on the Derby leaderboard with 50 points.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Basin will be ridden Saturday by Ricardo Santana Jr. and break from post position eight.

Invading from California is Jim and Donna Daniell’s Rushie. Trained by Michael McCarthy, Rushie finished third in last month’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) in his stakes debut to gain 20 Derby points. Javier Castellano, who won last year’s running on Vekoma, has the mount and will break from post position 10.

Also looking to add to his Derby points total is John Oxley’s Enforceable. Winner of the Lecomte (G3) and runner-up in the Risen Star (G2), Enforceable is trained by Mark Casse and will be ridden by Joel Rosario. Enforceable is 14th on the Derby leaderboard with 33 points.

Rosario is seeking his second Toyota Blue Grass victory to go with the triumph in 2011 on Brilliant Speed. Enforceable, third in last fall’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1), will break from post 12.

Seeking his initial Derby points is Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector. Trained by Tom Drury, Art Collector enters Saturday’s race off two allowance victories at Churchill Downs this year by a combined 9 ¾ lengths. Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount and will break from post position three.

In addition to McPeek, who won the Toyota Blue Grass with Harlan’s Holiday in 2002 and Java’s War in 2013, three other trainers will try to add to their win totals in the race.

Nick Zito, whose Blue Grass victories came with Strike the Gold (1991), Halory Hunter (1998) and The Cliff’s Edge (2004), will saddle Dream Walkin Farms’ Hunt the Front. A maiden winner at Oaklawn, Hunt the Front will be ridden by Corey Lanerie and break from post 11.

Dale Romans, a two-time Blue Grass winner with Dullahan (2012) and Brody’s Cause (2016), will send out graded stakes-placedAttachment Rate. Owned by Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister, Attachment Rate will be ridden by Luis Saez and break from post nine. Saez won the 2016 Blue Grass for Romans on Brody’s Cause.

Bill Mott, who won the Toyota Blue Grass in 1984 with Taylor’s Special, will send out LNJ Foxwoods and NK Racing’s maiden winner Tiesto. Flavien Prat has the mount and will break from post 13.

Three other riders with previous wins – John Velazquez, Rafael Bejarano and Jose Ortiz – will be seeking additional Toyota Blue Grass victories.

Velazquez, who rode Bandini in 2005 and Carpe Diem in 2015 to victory for Todd Pletcher, has the call on Jacks or Better Farm’s Shivaree, who will break from the rail.

Bejarano, who won the Toyota Blue Grass in 2007 aboard Dominican, has the call on Partner Stable’s Hard Lighting who will break from post six. Ortiz, who took the 2018 race on champion Good Magic, will be aboard Arnaldo Monge and trainer Rey Hernandez’s Finnick the Fierce and break from post two.

The field for the Toyota Blue Grass, with riders and weights from the rail out, is: Shivaree (Velazquez, 123 pounds), Finnick the Fierce (Ortiz, 123), Art Collector (Hernandez Jr., 123), Mr. Big News (Mitchell Murrill, 123), Man in the Can (Tyler Gaffalione, 123), Hard Lighting (Bejarano, 123), Swiss Skydiver (Smith, 118), Basin (Santana Jr., 123), Attachment Rate (Saez, 123), Rushie (Castellano, 123), Hunt the Front (Lanerie, 123), Enforceable (Rosario, 123), Tiesto (Prat, 123).





Morning Line



Ralph Nicks

John Velazquez



Finnick the Fierce

Rey Hernandez

Jose Ortiz



Art Collector

Tom Drury Jr.

Brian Hernandez Jr.



Mr. Big News

Bret Calhoun

Mitchell Murrill



Man in the Can

Ron Moquett

Tyler Gaffalione



Hard Lighting

Alexis Delgado

Rafael Bejarano



Swiss Skydiver (filly)

Kenny McPeek

Mike Smith

3-1 (favorite)



Steve Asmussen

Ricardo Santana Jr.



Attachment Rate

Dale Romans

Luis Saez




Michael McCarthy

Javier Castellano



Hunt the Front

Nick Zito

Corey Lanerie




Mark Casse

Joel Rosario




Bill Mott

Flavien Prat




Bret Calhoun, trainer of Mr. Big News (post 4; Mitchell Murrill to ride)

“That’s probably a really good draw for us. You don’t have to worry about trying to get over. We’re already somewhat in a ground-saving position but we’re not on the fence, which I didn’t want to be. It’s probably ideal. If they had let me just the pluck the number out on my own I probably would have picked somewhere around 6 or so. We’re not going to be up in the mix early, we’re going to be back off the pace so we should be in a good spot.”

On Swiss Skydiver impacting the pace scenario

“I think so, I think the more speed in there, the better it is for us and obviously she has been running up front. There are 2-3 other horses in there who have been running up on the pace so that’s all beneficial for us.”

“A lot of people aren't going to believe in him, they think that (win in the April 11 Oaklawn Stakes) was basically a fluke. So yeah, he’s got to prove it to everybody.  You know, we're seeing him in the mornings, he’s proven to us in the afternoons, this is another step forward, and he’s a really royal-bred horse and I think he’s going to prove himself.”

Mark Casse, trainer of Enforceable (post 12; Joel Rosario to ride)
“(The post is) not as important with him. It’s not going to affect us as much because we’re not going to the lead. It actually could be to our benefit in that he tends to break a little slow. But if he happens to break a little better, it will let (jockey) Joel (Rosario) find his spot. When you’re down inside and you break a little slow, you’re at everyone’s mercy because they come down on top of you. Plus it’s 1 1/8 miles so we have a little more run into the first turn.”

Tom Drury Jr., trainer of Art Collector (post 3; Brian Hernandez Jr. to ride)

“I’d sure rather be in post three than 13. He is doing good. He has had to earn his way into this spot. There was a question if he really wants to go two turns, but he checked that box and did it maybe with an exclamation point. He drew away at the end and had his ears up while galloping out afterwards. It is time to jump in to the deep end of the pool and see how he stacks up against this kind (of competition). He will ship from Skylight (training center in Goshen, Kentucky) the morning of the race.”

Ron Moquett, trainer of Man in the Can (post 5; Tyler Gaffalione to ride)

“He has enough tactical speed, so we can be where we need to be (from post five). We’ll let the rider do what he is supposed to do and that is make good decisions. He is coming into this race very good. He’s been at Keeneland and has worked over the track. The way he has been developing, the Blue Grass is a great test to see how good he is. His races indicate that he is willing to try against better competition.”

Kenny McPeek, trainer of Swiss Skydiver (post 7; Mike Smith to ride)

“Any other year, (the decision not to run a filly against males in the Toyota Blue Grass) would have been easy. I’ve got another filly (Envoutante) in the Ashland that we’re fond of, and I hate running against each other if I can help it. (Swiss Skydiver) gets a bit of a weight break in the Blue Grass, and we did Triple Crown nominate her. (The race) seems to be pretty wide open.

“(Swiss Skydiver is) doing super. She gets weight from all these colts. I think she’s going to like the added distance. I like the mile and an eighth (distance of the Toyota Blue Grass) better than the mile and a sixteenth (distance of the Central Bank Ashland). It’ll be exciting.”


Ralph Nicks, trainer of Shivaree (post 1; John Velazquez to ride)

“He will probably be forced to go on with the pace a little bit from the one post, but it is what it is. He arrived at Keeneland Wednesday morning and he made the trip fine. (We picked the Blue Grass) because of the timing and it is easy to get there. Plus there are some big races at Keeneland this fall. This will give him a trip over the track and see how he does. It just made sense. It felt like a good spot.”

Ryne Poncik of Jackpot Farm, owner of Basin (post 8; Ricardo Santana Jr. to ride)

“Oh nice. That’s better than being in (post 13 for sure). It sounds like to me that Shivaree might go and Swiss (Skydiver) will go and then we’ll go right with Swiss. Hopefully us and Swiss can get over before the turn and it looks like most everyone on the inside will be coming from far out. So it looks like we’ll maybe be 3-wide if I had to guess but it looks like we’ll be in the clear. We’ll be forwardly placed for sure.”

“He is fit, ready to go. This nine weeks since the Arkansas Derby (G1) has really helped him. The Arkansas Derby really took a lot out of him trying to keep up with Charlatan all the way around there. So, on these nine weeks he got good weight and he's really looking good.”


Keeneland connections on NTRA National Media Teleconference

Click here for a link to the audio file of Tuesday’s NTRA National Media Teleconference with Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston; Ryne Poncik of Jackpot Farm, owner of Basin; Bret Calhoun, trainer of Mr. Big News, and Bob Edwards, whose e Five Racing Thoroughbreds owns Rushing Fall. She seeks her fifth Keeneland stakes win in Saturday’s Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1).