BY Dick Jerardi
Butch Reid knew Project Whiskey was better than her last two races indicated. The 3-year-old filly had been training wonderfully at Parx since an unsuccessful trip to Churchill Downs in late May. So he entered her in the July 4 Grade III Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park.
“I expected her to run really well,’’ Reid said. “She had a couple of excuses. Her last Maryland race last year, she came up with a fever the next day. That race in Kentucky was a joke. The filly that beat her ran 1:08 and change. (Project Whiskey) is not that fast. She had just trained spectacularly since then. I thought she’d run a good race, but you never know.’’
No, you don’t. Project Whiskey, off at 38-1, ran the race of her life, stalking the pace three wide until the far turn when she began to move on favored Piece of My Heart. Just at that moment, 9-1 shot Dream Marie rushed up outside Project Whiskey.
Jockey Frankie Pennington, riding Project Whiskey, probably had to ask the filly a bit sooner than he wanted to in order to hold his position. She responded, ran by the favorite, held off the challenge of Dream Marie in the stretch and was actually edging away at the wire to win by a half-length.
“As soon as that horse came to her, she responded,’’ Reid said. “She’s such an easy horse to train. She has no equipment, no tongue tie, no noseband, no blinkers.’’
Project Whiskey had been beaten by 20 3/4 lengths in that Maryland race, but Reid knew why. At Churchill, she chased the very fast filly Frank’s Rockette, who came back to win the Victory Ride Stakes at Belmont Park two hours before the Delaware Oaks. That race followed a nearly six-month layoff and an 11-hour van ride the day before the race.
Project Whiskey, co-owned by Chuck Zacney’s Cash is King LLC and Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing, was one of four horses purchased by Reid for the partnership at the Timonium October 2018 yearling sale.
The other three are Johny Ritt, Monday Morning Qb and Bella G. The four cost a total of $116,000 and have already earned a combined $564,450.
An investment banker from the Mufson Howe firm that Bennett was working with when they were talking to private equity about their company, Unified Door & Hardware, termed the company Project Whiskey during the discussions. The company was eventually purchased by Dunes Capital and it has worked out really well. So has Project Whiskey, the filly.
Project Whiskey cost $35,000. After her Delaware Oaks win, she has won $262,580. She is by Tapit’s son Tapizar out of a Malibu Moon mare.
“She’s bred to run long,’ Reid said.
The Oaks was her first two-turn race.
“She’s very well put together,’’ Reid said. “She’s not the biggest horse ever, but she has a very solid body on her.’’
Project Whiskey was Reid’s 10th graded stakes win. The terrific Maximuus Mischief won the Grade II Remsen in 2018. Poseidon’s Warrior won the Grade I A. G. Vanderilt in 2012. Afleet Again won the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Marathon in 2011. All told, Reid has had at least 20 horses make more than $200,000, including Miss Blue Tye Dye, Disco Rose and Fat Kat, all Parx regulars.
Project Whiskey would obviously be a candidate for the Grade I Cotillion at her home track if the race was in its usual September spot. But, like the Pennsylvania Derby, it is unclear if the Cotillion will be run this year because the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are now the first weekend in September and in clear conflict with both of Parx’s signature races.
Wherever and whenever Project Whiskey runs next, one thing is certain. She won’t be 38-1.