Sweet Whiskey Seeks First Stakes Victory in Saturday's $100,000 Old Hat
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - When trainer Todd Pletcher put Sweet Whiskey away for the year in the cool of a New York September, it was with a plan in mind. Three months later, in the warmth of the South Florida sun, the speedy Old Fashioned filly remains right on course.
Sweet Whiskey and uncoupled Pletcher-trained stablemate Co Cola head a field of six in the $100,000 Old Hat (G3) on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, to be run third on an 11-race card that includes the $100,000 Marshua’s River (G3) and $100,000 Spectacular Bid.
Owned by Alto Racing, Sweet Whiskey will break from post one under two-time defending meet riding champion Javier Castellano. It will be her first start since running second to Miss Behaviour in the Matron (G2) at Belmont Park on Sept. 29.
“Everything has gone according to plan,” said Pletcher, who swept the Old Hat and Forward Gal (G2) last year with Kauai Katie en route to his 10th consecutive Gulfstream training title. “We went light on her for a little while, and she’s picked it up. Luckily, everything has kind of fallen into place. Hopefully, she fires off the layoff like she did in the first start of her life.”
Favored in all three of her lifetime starts, Sweet Whiskey rolled in her unveiling, going 5 ½ furlongs in 1:02.81 on Aug. 11 at Saratoga Race Course. Pletcher wheeled her back in three weeks in the seven-furlong Spinaway (G1), where she contested the early lead before fading to fourth, beaten 16 lengths on a sloppy, sealed track. “She showed us quite a bit before her first start. She’s a quick filly, good from the gate, and we certainly weren’t surprised she ran so well the first time,” Pletcher said. “We felt like we rushed her back a little bit into the Spinaway and she didn’t run as well as we thought she would have off a little bit of short rest. “I thought she ran a decent second in her next start; she just seemed to be a little bit tucked up after the campaign. We knew the Old Hat was positioned here, and possibly the Forward Gal, and we just wanted to freshen her up and be ready for this. I think she’s the kind of filly that fires well off the bench.”
Co Cola didn’t make her debut until Oct. 6, taking her bow by 4 ½ lengths at Belmont before rallying from a slow start to finish second in the Smart Halo stakes at Laurel on Nov. 16.
“She didn’t show quite as much speed in her second start,” Pletcher said. “She didn’t get away quite as well, and I think she’s a filly that probably wants to be a little closer to the pace than she was that day.”
The other horse in the Old Hat with graded stakes experience is Milam, trained by Eddie Kenneally for owner Joseph Sutton. A sharp maiden winner at Ellis Park in August, she was fourth by 6 ¾ lengths in the 1 1/16-mile Pocahontas (G2) at Churchill Downs the following month.
“She ran so well first time out we opted to run her in the stake going around two turns,” Kenneally said. “It might have been a little bit too much, maybe a little ambitious with her. She ran well and didn’t get beat very far, but we decided to bring her back sprinting and she’s done well in her two starts since then.”
A daughter of Grade 1 winner Street Sense, Milam was second in an entry-level allowance on the Polytrack at Keeneland on Oct. 12, and finished up her 2-year-old campaign winning a 6 ½-furlong optional claiming allowance at Churchill on Nov. 30.
“She’s doing really, really well,” Kenneally said. “I’m very happy with her. She has trained well at Palm Meadows since we got here, and she’s ready to go. She definitely fits with these horses on paper, so we’ll see what happens.”
Also in the Old Hat are unbeaten Canadian shipper Zensational Bunny, winner of the $128,000 Glorious Song on Nov. 23; maiden winner Aurelia’s Belle; and Side Street, second in the Cut the Charm stakes at Calder in mid-November.