There’s a picture of Switch in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, from her recent start in the Oct. 2 Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr. I). Actually, the picture is of Zenyatta, who is winning with her ears pricked, practically posing for the camera, jockey Mike Smith kissing her under the wire en route to her 19th straight victory.
Half a length behind her, Switch is bearing down – white-eyed, nostrils flared, hurtling. The 3-year-old filly’s general expression says something like this: What the heck just happened?!
"We thought we’d run against the older mares because Zenyatta scares a lot of horses out of the race," trainer John Sadler said of his Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (gr. I) contender. "So it’s going to be a small field and you’re running in a grade I. We thought we’d take our chance in there and she ran really, really well. We’re really proud of her."
At Churchill Downs a few days before the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, the Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) winner was bright-eyed and on the muscle. She had taken to the track for a series of three works over the course of three weeks at the Louisville oval, and seemed to have bounced out of her tangle with Zenyatta in fine form. When post positions were drawn, Switch drew the nine position and was installed at 20-1 morning line odds.
"Absolutely, how she would come out of the race was a concern, because I’ve watched Zenyatta her whole career," Sadler said. "But I think this filly, being three, is a new face, kind of a punk. And she bounced out of it pretty good, so we’re looking forward to the next race here."
Expectations for the bay daughter of Quiet American–Antoniette have been high since before she came to the track. Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm and purchased for $150,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2008 for C R K Stable, she was a late developer who did not make her first start as a 2-year-old until Dec. 13, 2009. But she won that 6 ½-furlong maiden race at Hollywood by two lengths and was precocious enough to warrant a start in the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) on Jan. 16 this year.
"She looked like a runner before we even ran her," Sadler said, standing in the shedrow of Barn 39 at Churchill Downs. "She trained extremely well, she was the favorite the first time and she ran a nice race. Right away, we liked her, so we skipped a condition and put her in a stakes race right away in her second race."
"We thought she could have won with a little different trip in the Santa Ynez," Sadler said. "But all the ones we’ve been running with, they’re very good, there’s no question about that. In this race, of course, you’re getting a lot of top mares from a lot of different locations. But we think seven furlongs is a good distance for her and if you look at her record she certainly tries hard every time."
Sadler changed tactics with Switch for the trip to Louisville, shipping in a little over two weeks ago. He said he wanted to give the filly more time to acclimate to her surroundings as compared to her Florida trip this spring, when she arrived at Gulfstream Park fairly close to the running of the March 20 Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II). She ran fourth, beaten 8 ¾ lengths behind Devil May Care, in her only try on dirt thus far.
"The first time we shipped her out of town and she was fourth and didn’t really fire, that was her least attractive race," the trainer said. "So this time we brought her in early, gave her more time to settle here. We thought that a mile and an eighth was a little bit far for her early in the year anyhow."
Switch has a total of three victories--the maiden score, the previously mentioned victory in the Hollywood Oaks and a win in the Sept. 9 Torrey Pines Stakes.
"She’s showed herself to be a really good one; she’s run well every time we’ve run her," Sadler remarked. "I think she’s going to be fine, and next year we’d like to try the Ladies’ Classic with her. We think she’s going to be even better then. She’s a leggy filly and we think she’s going to keep growing."