Sweet Whiskey took the inside path in the $100,000 Old Hat Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 4 at Gulfstream Park, charging past stablemate and runner-up Co Cola in the stretch to notch her first stakes victory (VIDEO).
The six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies was marred by the fatal breakdown of Andrew Farm's homebred Side Street, a Street Sense filly. She fell after chasing the pace three wide into the stretch, flinging Jesus Castanon to the ground. The rider was able to walk off the track.
With Javier Castellano at the reins, 8-5 choice Sweet Whiskey broke from post 1 and bided her time in fourth, then fifth after a half mile. Milam sprinted to the front and dueled through the backstretch with Zensational Bunny before edging clear nearing the far turn after fractions of :22.71 and :45.82 on a fast track .
But Co Cola made a determined four wide charge around the turn under Jose Lezcano to seize a brief lead in early stretch. She could not keep pace with Sweet Whiskey, however, as her stablemate took the lead past the eighth pole along the inside and cruised to a 2 3/4-length triumph after a less than ideal start.
"She didn't get a super break," trainer Todd Pletcher said of the winner. "She broke in a little bit and a couple horses from the outside got good starts and squeezed her out of there a little bit.
"She was in kind of a situation she hadn't been in before, on the inside and in behind horses, and I thought she handled it really well. She took the dirt great and had plenty left when the time came."
Sweet Whiskey, a filly from the first crop of Taylor Made Stallions resident Old Fashioned, was in fine fettle for the Old Hat following a three-month layoff since finishing second in the Matron Stakes (gr. II) Sept. 29 at Belmont Park. She pleased Pletcher with the victory over Co Cola, who outfinished Aurelia's Belle by 4 3/4 lengths for second.
Alto Racing's Sweet Whiskey covered six furlongs in 1:10.63 for her second win from four lifetime starts. She scored a front-running victory in her career debut Aug. 11 at Saratoga Race Course before finishing fourth in the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) there Sept. 1.
"We ran her back on a little bit of short rest from the maiden race to the Spinaway," Pletcher said, "and I think that backfired a little bit. We'll just have to see how she does and whether running back in the Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II, going seven furlongs January 25 at Gulfstream) makes sense or not.
"I thought the other filly (Co Cola) ran super. At the top of the stretch it looked like she might have the race and had to lose a little bit of ground but ran a big race."
A $75,000 buy by Bradley Thoroughbreds at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale, Sweet Whiskey was a $300,000 purchase the following year by bloodstock agent Steve Young at Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. 2-year-olds in training sale in March. The half sister to stakes winner El Gaucho was bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall out of the El Corredor mare Baby Betty.
Sweet Whiskey rewarded backers with mutuels of $5.40 $3.20, and $2.60, while Co Cola returned $4.80 and $3.60. The 1-5 exacta paid $21. Aurelia's Belle paid $4.60 to show.
Zensational finished fourth, followed by Milam.
While Andrew Farm and trainer Elizabeth Gray dealt with the tragic loss of Side Street, Sweet Whiskey's triumph was also bittersweet for Pletcher. Earlier in the day, the five-time Eclipse Award winner lost veteran graded stakes winner Caixa Eletronica in a training accident at Belmont Park.