The 2020 Preakness Stakes officially had 11 horses running for the Black-Eyed Susans, but it might as well have only had two. Swiss Skydiver and Authentic put on a classic race, with the former taking the victory in a photo finish.
The filly was making her first appearance in a Triple Crown race after skipping out on the Belmont Stakes and taking second place in the Kentucky Oaks, but it didn't take long for her to prove she fit right in.
Authentic and fellow Bob Baffert horse Thousand Words set a slow pace early in the race. However, Thousand Words started to tire and that is when Swiss Skydiver jockey Robby Albarado made his move around Thousand Words and to the rail.
That decision paid off in a big way as it gave the filly the advantage against the post-time favorite down the stretch. It was down the stretch that both Authentic and the eventual winner proved they were a cut above the rest of the pack.
The final results tell the story.
Order of Finish (Lengths Behind)
1. Swiss Skydiver
2. Authentic (neck)
3. Jesus' Team (10)
4. Art Collector (10)
5. Max Player (11¼)
6. Excession (15)
7. Mr. Big News (16)
8. Thousand Words (16½)
9. Ny Traffic (21¼)
10. Pneumatic (22½)
11. LiveYourBeastLife (32¾)
There was no long shot with a chance to win this one, but that didn't stop Jesus' Team from ruining some trifectas out there. The little-known colt put in a surprising effort to beat out second choice Art Collector to show at Pimlico.
Swiss Skydiver also paid out well for those with the foresight to back her.
Payouts (Win, Place, Show)
1. Swiss Skydiver ($25.40, $8.40, $5.80)
2. Authentic ($3.60, $3.20)
3. Jesus' Team ($12.20)
The win is the first Triple Crown victory for trainer Kenny McPeek. He took a bold risk to put the filly up against some of the best colts in the country, and it paid off in a big way.
It isn't the first Triple Crown win for Albarado. He won the Preakness aboard Curlin in 2007, but this one is even more impressive given his late assignment to the horse. The 47-year-old was racing her for the first time in Baltimore.
Despite the short time to build a connection, he knew he had something special in her.
"I had to make a conscious decision in the middle of the backside," said Albarado, per Marty McGee of Daily Racing Form. "I jumped in there. I knew Authentic usually stays off the fence a bit. ... My plan was to stay inside him. It was a sprint home, and she was determined to be in front of him and wasn't letting him pass. She has a heart of gold. A true champion, yes."
In a unique year for the Triple Crown, it's fitting that it would come to a rare conclusion. Fillies don't usually win in one of them. Swiss Skydiver became the first to do since Rachel Alexandra in 2009, and the Preakness isn't usually the end of the Triple Crown.
It's also a fitting pinnacle for a horse who has been heavily raced and seen plenty of tracks and stakes races throughout the year.
Now the focus of the horse racing world shift to the Breeders' Cup. The Breeders' Cup Classic on November 7 is one of the highlights of the calendar outside of the Triple Crown and could attract a quality lineup.
Belmont winner Tiz the Law is expected to be an entrant. Authentic could gear up for another rematch there as well. If McPeek and Co. decide to bring Swiss Skydiver, it could be the race of the year and the winner could be considered the horse of the year.