Whisky Wins Peninsula H’cap Gr2
Whisky Baron powered past front-running Milton in deep stretch to win the Peninsula Handicap, prompting the handicappers to raise his merit rating up to 110 and confirm his position as a serious candidate for the SunMet on the 28th January.
The now gelded Aussie bred son of Manhattan Rain has been ultra- consistent throughout his career, winning five of 12 starts. Other than his “worst” finish when fourth in a muddy Winter Derby to Elusive Silva, Whisky Baron has always been close to the action, most notably twice running upsides of high class rival, Marinaresco during that Grade 3 Winter Series.
The decision to geld him has paid off – he is now a perfect four from four since the procedure. Jockey Greg Cheyne has ridden him to all of those wins in “stepping-stone” races cannily selected by trainer Brett Crawford. Graduation and Allowance Plate victories in October, November and December preceded Saturday’s Grade 2 success, with the athletic bay’s merit rating increasing at each start from the mid 90’s to 100 then up to 103 and now being raised again to 110.
The SunMet weight scale is compressed and not a true handicap, so Whisky Baron will have to run to an even higher rating to harass the favourite, Legal Eagle, who has a mark of 123. Yet, he keeps on improving, has developed the powerful turn of foot characteristic of proper horse’s in zipping through 600m bursts in sub 35 seconds, and crucially, he is emboldened with the heart of a winner. Those attributes suggest that Whisky Baron is teed up for a career peak at month end, and it will be intriguing to see how he shapes against proven Grade 1 performers.
Whisky Baron, who made his debut in August 2015, continues to provide huge pleasure to owners, Craig and Ross Kieswetter. In 2014 Hill Fifty Four followed a Peninsula Handicap score by going on to clinch the Met, and the sporting brothers will be hoping their hero can repeat that feat.
Trainer Crawford has won the Met before on two occasions (Angus, Futura) so knows what it takes to get the job done. He fully appreciates the difficulty of the task but will do everything in his considerable repertoire of training skills to produce Whisky Baron primed for a huge run on the big day.