Trainer Bob Baffert saddled two horses in Saturday's Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby, including the 1-2 post time favorite Ax Man. At the finish, however, it was his other trainee hitting the wire first at 7-1 odds. Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman's Once On Whiskey rolled down the stretch to put his nose down ahead of 2-1 Draft Pick on the wire, earning his first graded stakes win. Ridden by Flavien Prat, the 3-year-old son of Bodemeister covered 1 1/8 miles over Los Alamitos' fast main track in 1:48.93.
The win was the third in the last four years for Baffert in the Derby. He had scored previously with Gimme Da Lute – also for Pegram, Watson and Weitman – in 2015 and eventual 3-year-old champion West Coast in 2017.
“(Once On Whiskey) has been working well and we've been wanting to stretch him out, so we decided to put him in here,'' said Baffert. “In the stretch I could tell Ax Man was starting to get tired.
“I saw a horse coming and I said, ‘That's me,' so that was good. He needed the whole stretch to get there.
“I'm happy for the whole (Pegram, Watson and Weitman) gang. I like what I saw from him today. Coming in I really thought Ax Man could do it, but on the turn, I could see them ganging up on him and he just didn't respond.
“I have to give credit to (Prat). I told him just to be patient with him.''
Ax Man finished a head in front of King Cause, the longest shot in the field at 54-1, and Blended Citizen, the 5-1 third choice, trailed.
“(Trainer) Bob (Baffert) told me to ride him patiently and he settled nicely. He's pretty much push button and because they were going slow up front, I asked him to pick up the pace a little sooner. He really gave me a strong finish and that long stretch helped.''
Bred in Kentucky by Gabriel Duignan and Crosshaven Bloodstock, Once On Whiskey was a $150,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September sale. The colt did not debut until February of this year, but won in his second start and has now won two of four, never finishing off the board to earn $140,000.
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