Whiskey Ticket wins by a nose

Whiskey Ticket came off the one and only start of his career-a March 19 maiden special weight victory at first asking at Santa Anita Park-and bravely held off Conquest Curlinate to win the $400,000 Illinois Derby April 18 at Hawthorne Race Course by a nose.

Shipped to the Chicagoland oval by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, the 3-year-old son of Ghostzapper covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.82 on a fast track while earning his first graded stakes score in his second start for owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman.

The partners purchased the Kentucky-bred colt for $200,000 for their Three Amigos Racing from the Taylor Made Sales Agency consignment at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Jockey Martin Pedroza kept Whiskey Ticket fourth, behind a pace set briefly by California Derby winner Cross the Line. The 6-5 favorite in the field of eight, Cross the Line set the pace for a quarter in :23.40 before allowing longshot A. Rod Again to take over.

That rival, pressured by Kantune through a quarter a half in :46.89, gave way to Whiskey Ticket as Pedroza swung the dark bay colt out around the far turn through three-quarters in 1:11.73, gunning it for home through a 1:38 mile while holding off Conquest Curlinate's late charge.

Whiskey Ticket returned $6.40, $4, and $3.20 while Conquest Curlinate brought $6 and $4.60. Phenomenal Phoenix paid $4.80 in third.

Following fourth-place finisher Verraco was Cross the Line, who came off a fifth in the Santa Anita Derby after running second in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III). Private Prospect, A. Rod Again, and Kantune completed the order of finish. Lewys Vaproizer scratched.

The winner was bred in Kentucky by Springland Farm and Adena Springs out of the Gilded Time mare Honey Grove and improved his earnings to $273,600.