Once on Whiskey got up in the final strides to deny Draft Pick by a head in Saturday’s $150,00 Los Alamitos Derby (G3), giving Bob Baffert his third win in four years since the 1 1/8-mile event formerly known as the Swaps was moved from Hollywood Park. The Hall of Fame trainer won four editions when it was the Swaps.
West Coast parlayed a triumph in last year’s Los Alamitos Derby into a victory in the $1.25 million Travers (G1) at Saratoga and Baffert has captured the last two editions of the “Midsummer Derby,” sending Arrogate to a track record-breaking performance in 2016.
With Triple Crown winner Justify extremely unlikely, the Travers will be an option for the lightly-raced Once on Whiskey, who broke his maiden the second time out by a 2 ¾-length margin at Santa Anita on May 24. Campaigned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman, the lightly-raced Bodemeister colt was exiting a third-place finish in an entry-level allowance on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard at Churchill Downs.
Flavien Prat was up on the winner, who stopped the teletimer in 1:48.93. Once on Whiskey left the starting gate as 7-1 fourth choice among five rivals in his fourth career outing.
Draft Pick, the 2-1 second choice following his win in the Affirmed (G3), tracked splits of :24.52, :48.59 and 1:12.06 before accelerating to the lead off the far turn, reaching the mile mark with a 1 ½-length edge. Once on Whiskey rallied from last after the opening quarter-mile and closed determinedly through the long stretch to net his first stakes tally.
Stakes winner Ax Man, the 3-5 favorite for Baffert, wound up five lengths back of Draft Pick in third after setting the pace. King Cause came next in fourth and it was another five lengths back to Peter Pan (G2) winner Blended Citizen in last.
Bred in Kentucky by Gabriel Dulgnan and Crosshaven Bloodstock, Once on Whiskey was purchased for $150,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September sale and the 3-year-old dark bay has now earned $140,300. He’s out of the stakes-placed Mineshaft mare Crespano.