Tigertail Ranch’s Mobile Bay entered Saturday’s featured $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic as the lone graded stakes winner in the field and asserted said class in a dominant 4 3/4-length triumph under a heady ride by Diego Saenz. An iron horse, having raced 24 times over the last two seasons, the 17-hand dark bay appeared fresh and strong throughout, tracking defending champ The Pickett Factor in second before moving through an opening on the rail to take control of the race on the far turn. From there, the Victor Arceneaux trainee was all poise, widening his sizable stride and winning margin to the wire. Winner of the Grade II Super Derby and Classic runner-up last year, the son of Lone Star Special completed the 1 1/8-miles event for Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds and upward in 1:51.31.
The victory was part of a stellar day for Irwin Olian’s Tigertail Ranch, which also won the $100,000 Ladies Sprint with Danny Pish-trained Wheatfield and finished second in the $100,000 Turf with Fort Pulaski from four starters.
“After a good break, I was able to put him pretty much where I wanted to,” Saenz said. “He’s a big horse and if he doesn’t break good, he’s not going to run that well. He put me in position and I had time to save all the ground on the second turn and just go for it.”
Setting fractions of 24.82, 49.67 and 1:13.62 under John Jacinto, The Pickett Factor begrudgingly retreated to third for trainer Ralph Irwin and owner Melissa Cantacuzene. Double Dam Farm’s Delmar Caldwell-trained Mageez rallied well under Mitchell Murrill to grab the runner-up spot by a length.
Mobile Bay, who returned $7.40, $4.40 and $3.20 as the 5-2 third choice, won for the ninth time in 24 career starts, adding $90,000 to a career bankroll that now sits at $916,440. Mageez returned $6.20 and $4, while The Pickett Factor returnd $2.80.
“He was a little sharper than we had set out to be, so I just tried to get him settled,” Murrill said. “I had him in a good spot and he was comfortable. I thought they would come back to me, but the winner kept going.”
“It was a good trip, but this horse has his own way of running,” Jacinto said. “He doesn’t like to be (near the rail), so we lost some ground. I was going so easily on the lead and he tried to come back to the winner, but in the last sixteenth he got tired.”
Finishing last of six in his attempt at a third Classic victory in as many attempts, 3-2 favorite Sunbean disappointed under Richard Eramia for trainer Ron Faucheux and owner Brittlyn Stable.
“He felt good and I was sitting behind the winner (on the backstretch), but he didn’t pick it up,” Eramia said. “He just didn’t have it. He’s such a nice horse to ride, but he didn’t have anything left today.”
The Classic running order was completed by Southern Argument, One King’s Man and the aformentioned Sunbean.
Valene Farms’ Hail to the Nile was courageous in victory in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf, fending off a stiff two-pronged challenge in mid-stretch to post a three-quarter-length tally. Piloted by Francisco Torres, the local grass lover won his fifth race from 11 tries over the Stall-Wilson turf course.
The Sturges Ducoing-trained son of Pioneerof the Nile broke from the outside post six and dictated fractions of 24.63, 49.66 and 1:13.48 before being headed by Tigertail Ranch’s sophomore Fort Pulaski, under Florent Geroux, at the top of the lane. Determined, the bay repelled said Danny Pish trainee and also held off a stiff challenge from Charles C. Smith’s three-time Turf winner and 8-year-old local fan favorite String King, who finished another half-length astern Fort Pulaski in third under James Graham. The final time for the 1 1/16-miles event for 3-year-olds and upward Louisiana-breds was 1:43.88,
“He’s the kind of horse you rate and we took control of the pace,” Torres said. “Of course, you’re going to get pressure when you’re going easy fractions. He did it effortlessly and I asked him to kick it in (at the top of the stretch) and he did. We had a little something left in the tank.”
Sent to post as the 9-2 co-fourth-choice, Hail to the Nile paid $11.20, $6.40 and $3.60, while adding $60,000 to a career bankroll that now sits at $246,161. The win was his second in added-money company this year at the New Orleans oval, having acquired the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace on Feb. 27, and sixth in the 5-year-old gelding’s 31-race career. Fort Pulaski returned $4.40 and $2.60, while String King returned $2.40 as the slight 2-1 favorite.
“I was in a great spot and thought I had him,” Geroux said. “I went to go by him at the quarter pole, but at the eighth-pole he came back on me.”
“I had a beautiful trip,” Graham added. “When I tipped him out, I had all the racetrack in front of me. He just didn’t have it.”
The Turf field was completed by Let Us Be Glad, defending champion Hot Zapper and local prep winner Benwill.
After falling short as the favorite in the local prep, Maggi Moss’ Big World ($4.20, $2.80 and $2.20) rebounded with a game effort to score in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies. A clean break under Florent Geroux set the 3-year-old daughter of Custom for Carlos up for a perfect pressing trip behind fractions of 24.15, 47.63 and 1:12.48 before assuming command at the top of the lane. The Tom Amoss trainee then turned away a late challenge from Set-Hut LLC’s Jerry Delhomme-trained Forest Lake ($5.80 and $2.60) under Hector Santiago to post a neck win in 1:45.08 for the 1 1/16-miles trip. Keith Plaisance’s defending champion Pacific Pink ($2.40) was another five lengths back in third under Robby Albarado for trainer Eddie Johnston.
“It was going great,” Geroux said. “She broke very sharply from the gate and from there I just tried to nurse her around and get her to relax.”
The win was Big World’s fourth in eight career starts, and the $60,000 winner’s share boosted her career bankroll to $318,600.
Heatseeker Sharon, Seaside Candy and Kinky Vow completed the order of finish.
Breeder-owner-trainer Dallas Stewart’s Saint’s Fan ($3, $2.40 and $2.10) justified his 1-2 favoritism with a sharp two-length score in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile. The son of Tale of Ekati remained unbeaten in two starts under Brian Hernandez, Jr. after a sharp score against open maidens at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. Placed in the outer paths while rated off splits of 22.17 and 45.74, Saint’s Fan commenced a relentless rally nearing the top of the stretch and eventually collared Rodney Verret’s Allen Landry-trained Laughingsaintssong under Florent Geroux ($6.40 and $4.20) in the final eighth of a mile to stop the clock in 1:10.74 for six furlongs. It was another 2½ lengths back to Jeff Drown and Gary Scherer’s Jack Snipe’s ($2.80) in third.
“We were a bit wide from the outside post, but we knew we had the best horse so I rode him like he was the best horse,” Hernandez, Jr. said. “I don’t think you’ve seen the best of him yet.”
Saint’s Fan earned $60,000 to boost his bankroll to $92,700.
Philly, Street Honor, Imindycatbirdseat, Just Due, Stormin Afleet and Run Away Ralph completed the running order.
Robbins Family Racing’s My Friend Flavin ($32.60, $10.80 and $7) returned to Louisiana-bred company for his first start since July and turned in a resolute rally to post a three-quarter-length win in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint. Trained by Leo Gabriel, Jr., the 4-year-old son of Forestry settled midpack under Robby Albarado behind splits of 21.71 and 45.19 set by Just Kissing Buck and Greeley’s Wish before wearing down Dare to Dream Stable’s Mike Stidham-trained 6-5 favorite Jockamo’s Song ($3.20 and $2.80), who led into deep stretch under Florent Geroux, in a final time of 1:10.60. It was three lengths further back to Suzette Necaise’s Eduardo Ramirez-trained Just Kissing Buck ($4.60) under Diego Saenz.
“I had a great trip,” Albarado said. “He broke exceptionally well and I sat right in between the two flights with no traffic trouble.”
The Sprint was the first stakes win and fourth overall from 13 lifetime starts for My Friend Flavin, who earned $60,000 to boost his bankroll to $164,202.
Nubin Ridge, Grande Basin, Greeley’s Wish, C U Tiger, Chattanoogan, John’s Luck, Zendelphian, Too Dim and Smoothmoney completed the running order.
Tigertail Ranch’s Wheatfield ($11.80, $5 and $3.20) returned to Louisiana-bred company for the first time in four starts and powered home a winner in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint. Ridden by Diego Saenz for trainer Danny Pish, Wheatfield tracked from the outside through splits of 21.85 and 45.28 before easily powering home clear by 3¾ lengths in 1:09.89 for six furlongs. Keith Plaisance’s Eddie Johnston-trained Sunny Oak ($5.40 and $3.40) battled for the early lead with Conquest Tiz One after a sharp break under Miguel Mena, went clear into the stretch, but could not repel the winner’s challenge. It was another 2¾ lengths back to Steve Landers Racing’s 9-5 favorite Illussion Artist ($2.80), who finished third under Robby Albarado for trainer Brad Cox.
“I was trying not to get stopped at any part of the race, so I kept her out so I could move any time I had to,” Saenz said.
Wheatfield, a 4-year-old daughter of Lone Star Special, won for the sixth time in 15 lifetime starts and earned $60,000 for the win, building her career bankroll to $264,754
Ramona’s Wildcat, Look Into My Eyes, Conquest Tiz One, Teelfa, Discreetly Grand, Aunt Nellie, Jet Black Magic, Fancy Madelyn and Platinum Lady completed the running order. Wind Chill Factor was scratched.
Troy Collins’ Ivana’s Wish ($41.60, $13.60 and $8.40) found the front with ease and was never headed en route to a 1½-length upset win in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie. Ridden by Florent Geroux through splits of 21.91 and 45.51, the juvenile daughter of Custom for Carlos completed the six-furlong trip in 1:11.89 for trainer Allen Landry. The win was her second in four career starts and the $60,000 winner’s purse elevated her career bankroll to $80,100.
“It worked out good,” Geroux said. “The trainer told me that last time she broke a bit flat footed and made a middle move and it was not the best setup for her. She broke very sharply and I was able to take the lead pretty easily.”
Marble Farms LLC’s Our Millie ($3.40 and $2.60) tracked the pace under Alexander Castillo but could not reach the winner for trainer Joseph Foster, with Bobby Salome’s Charles Hukill-trained Chases Dixie Belle ($3.80) another length back in third under Colby Hernandez.
Moonlightnmidnight, P Boo, Jazz Lady, Naughty Little Nun and Alyssa Rocks completed the running order.
Maggi Moss’ Watch My Smoke ($8.20, $3.20 and $2.80) settled outside and just off the speed before confronting the leaders turning for home en route to a 3½-length tally in the $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Starter Stakes, winning said event for the second year in a row. Ridden by Florent Geroux for trainer Tom Amoss, the 8-year-old son of Leestown exited an easy win against $25,000 claiming company at Indiana Grand. After tracking the early splits of 23.99, 47.64 and 1:12.73, the big gray edged clear to complete the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:43.64. The $30,000 winner’s share boosted his career earnings to $441,725 in his 14th win from 51 career starts. Gillian and owner-trainer Kirk Harris’ Sir Genghis ($2.40 and $2.10), sent to post as the 3-5 favorite, set the early tempo under Colby Hernandez but could not hold off Watch My Smoke’s challenge while finishing 3¼ lengths clear of End Zone Athletics’ Karl Broberg trained Heavy On Themister ($2.40) under Robby Albarado.
Rocketringo, Bluegrass Punch and Rock N Sake completed the order of finish.