Once On Whiskey used every bit of the long Los Alamitos stretch to catch Draft Pick in the final strides of the $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby (G3).
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Saturday's win was the stakes debut for the 3-year-old Bodemeister colt trained by Bob Baffert.
Once On Whiskey was the less-heralded of the two Baffert Derby entrants, with Ax Man going off as the odds-on favorite. It was Ax Man who set all the pace, with plenty of pressure from King Cause and Draft Pick. At the top of the stretch, Ax Man began to falter, and Draft Pick looked like a winner with a furlong to run. Once On Whiskey and Flavien Prat made one final lunge and got to the wire a head in front
Once On Whiskey covered the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:48.93 on a fast track.
"When we turned for home, I asked him to run, and he responded pretty well," Prat said. "I didn't know if we could catch the leader, but I thought he could make a nice run. He just kept on going."
“We've been wanting to stretch him out, and I was going to stretch him out at Del Mar—so for him to run like that, I've got to give a lot of credit to Prat. I just told him to be patient with him,” said Baffert.
Once On Whiskey is owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman and now has $140,300 in earnings.
Bred in Kentucky by Gabriel Duignan and Crosshaven Bloodstock, out of Crespano, Once On Whiskey broke his maiden at second asking going seven furlongs March 24 at Santa Anita Park, then shipped to Churchill Downs to finish third in an optional-claiming allowance on Kentucky Derby day.
Bodemeister leads all Third-Crop Sires with 66 winners and five stakes winners to date, and is also in the top five by progeny earnings and black type horses.