Cross the Line and Awesome Flower were favored in the pair of Grade 3 stakes at Hawthorne Saturday, but neither took home the laurels in the Illinois Derby and the Sixty Sails Handicap.
In the Illinois Derby, Bob Baffert trained Whiskey Ticket benefitted from a hot pace and a superb ride by Martin Pedroza to take the $400,000 Derby.
“He broke a little sluggish,” Pedroza said, “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.”
Whiskey Ticket stalked the hot pace set by the trio of Cross the Line, A Rod Again and Kantune. When the time came to move through the turn, Pedroza set him straight and set him down for the drive, holding on the hard charging Conquest Curlinate by a head.
“Turning for home I was screaming bloody murder and whipping him left handed and right handed,” Pedroza said. 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.”
Whiskey Ticket returned $6.40, $4.00 and $3.20 covering the mile and an eighth in 1:50.82 and giving owner Mike Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert back to back Illinois Derby wins (Midnight Hawk in 2014). Conquest Curlinate paid $6.00 and $4.00 to his backers and Phenomenal Phoenix paid $4.80 to show.
In the mile and an eighth Sixty Sails, Ramsey Farms’ Awesome Flower set sail as the 1-2 favorite but could not find the running room she needed late and ended up second to Yahilwa, who had to overcome trouble of her own.
After stumbling a bit out of the gate, jockey Elvis Trujillo was able to gather her up and settle her just off the early pace in the small field.
“I know that she stumbled pretty good at the start but it might have helped,” said trainer James Cassidy. “Elvis got her back quickly. She was pretty sharp, keen to go, so I expected her to be right there with the early leaders. But, she recovered and everything was good.”
Yahilwa seized the lead at the top of the lane and was able to win by 2 1/2 lengths, returning to her backers $6.40, $2.80 and $2.40. She covered the mile and an eighth in 1:51.13.
Awesome Flower, who could not find clear sailing until late, held of Ketel Twist by a head and paid $2.20 and $2.10. Ketel Twist paid $4.00 to show.