Whiskey Ticket Refuses to Lose Illinois Derby

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7:53 pm EDT

By Dick Downey

Whiskey Ticket  siezed command leaving the far turn, then held off Conquest Curlinate by a nose to win the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne.

Timed in 1:50.82 after a very energetic ride in the stretch by Martin Pedroza, Whiskey Ticket won his second race in as many starts after being shipped to Chicago from Bob Baffert's base at Santa Anita. Conquest Curlinate was a maiden winner from three starts coming into the race.

Phenomenal Phoenix was a late-running  third, beaten four lengths, followed another 5 1/2 lengths back by Verraco, then a nose to Cross the Line.  Private Prospect, A. Rod Again and Kantune brought up the rear. Lewy's Vaporizer was scratched.

Cross the Line, the 6-5 post-time favorite, was part of the initial pace running between Kantune and A. Rod Again. Early in the backstretch, he was taken up by Florent Geroux, suddenly finding himself 2 1/2 lengths off the lead. He didn't look comfortable at any point afterward. The initial fractions were :23.40, :46.89 and 1:11.73.

Whiskey Ticket hopped at the start and was four wide tracking those three leaders into the first turn.  On the backstretch, he gradually moved up to second place, a length behind A. Rod Again.  He was roused nearing upper stretch and was 1 1/2 length best at the furlong marker.  Conquest Curlinate saved his best running for the late going after being last in the eight-horse field, 15 lengths off the lead, after the first half-mile.

Supporters of Whiskey Ticket were paid $6.40, $4.00 and $3.20 on $2.00 tickets.

Whiskey Ticket is owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman. He was bred in Kentucky by Springland Farm, Inc. and Adena Springs. The son of Ghostzapper is out of the Gilded Time mare Honey Grove and brought $200,000 at the Keeneland September 2013 yearling sale.