Hawthorne Race Course (4/18/15)
Contact: Jim Miller, 708-780-3700
Whiskey Ticket Holds On in Illinois Derby
STICKNEY, IL – In the 2014 running of the Grade 3 Illinois Derby, trainer Bob Baffert sent Midnight Hawk out as the favorite for an ownership group led by Mike Pegram. That horse was Midnight Hawk, who was nabbed on the wire by Dynamic Impact. This year Baffert and Pegram were back, looking to get the victory with the lightly raced Whiskey Ticket.
When the gates sprung for the 1 1/8 mile, Grade 3, $400,000 Illinois Derby, it was a three-horse battle for the lead between favorite Cross the Line, A. Rod Again, and Kantune. The three contested the pace through fractions of :23.40 and :46.89 to the half. Cross the Line took back off the pace battle into the far turn as the leaders went three quarters in 1:11.73. As the trio set the pace, Martin Pedroza kept Whiskey Ticket tucked in two to three lengths behind as he gained ground into the turn. As the field straightened out, Whiskey Ticket opened up a length and a half lead in the stretch as Conquest Curlinate rallied late down the center. At the wire, it was Whiskey Ticket just holding on by a nose over the late rush of Conquest Curlinate with Phenomenal Phoenix another four lengths back in third. The final time for the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track was 1:50.82. Following the top three in the Illinois Derby in order were: Verraco, Cross the Line, Private Prospect, A. Rod Again, and Kantune.
Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, Whiskey Ticket returned $6.40, $4.00, and $3.20. Conquest Curlinate returned $6.00 and $4.60 while Phenomenal Phoenix paid $4.80 to show.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Whiskey Ticket earned $240,000 for the victory, bringing his career earnings after a pair of starts to $273,600.
Jockey Martin Pedroza had to keep Whiskey Ticket calm early, "I was a little concerned before the race. He was a little anxious. Not nervous but anxious. I told the pony person to keep him away from the other horses. I galloped him a little bit just to take the edge off and it worked. He seemed to be pretty relaxed after that." Looking at how the race unfolded, Pedroza continued, "He broke a little sluggish but recovered right away. I tracked right behind the other horses. He didn't seem to mind the dirt too much. He didn't like it at first but he got used to it. I didn't want him to get too much dirt on him so I put him in the clear. I didn't want someone to box me in. Turning for home I was screaming bloody murder and whipping him left handed and right handed. I don't think he ever saw the horse coming on the outside, he was kind of too far away, so I put my horse close to him. Anyway, we got the job done."
In the winner's circle, Pedroza had one final comment, "I want to thank my best friend Rene Douglas. He was one of the reasons that I came over here. He told me I was crazy if I didn't come for Baffert. He told me this was a nice horse. He won at a mile in his first start and there aren't many horses that can do that."
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan got a great effort from Conquest Curlinate, "I had to ride him a little bit just to get him going. He takes a little encouragement. He's a big kid that's still learning but at least he's going in the right direction. Not to take anything away from the winner but both horses ran hard to the end."
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