Whiskey Ticket held off fast charging Conquest Curlinate by a nose Saturday to win the $400,000 Illinois Derby for 3-year-olds at Hawthorne Race Course.
Ridden by Martin A. Pedroza, Whiskey Ticket ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.82 on the fast track and paid $6.40, $4 and $3.20 as the second choice in the eight-horse field.
Whiskey Ticket had a clear lead halfway down the stretch when Conquest Curlinate made a strong move from the outside and just ran out of track.
"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. Anyway, we got the job done."
Trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Karl Watson, Michael E. Pegram and Paul Weitman, Whiskey Ticket looms as a possible entrant for the Preakness Stakes — the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Whiskey Ticket, shipped in from California, won his second consecutive race. He won March 19 at Santa Anita in his debut.
"I was a little concerned before the race," Pedroza said. "He was a little anxious. Not nervous, but anxious."
Conquest Curlinate returned $6.00 and $4.60, and Phenomenal Phoenix paid $4.80 to show.
Conquest Curlinate, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, was coming off a third-place finish at Oaklawn on Feb. 19.
"I had to ride on him a little bit just to get him going," Bridgmohan said. "He takes a little encouragement. He's a big kid that's still learning but at least he's going in the right direction."
Phenomenal Phoenix, with Luis S. Quinonez on board, was bumped at the start of the race and eventually started to gain ground in the stretch, but didn't have a final kick.