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Mobile Bay Asserts Class in LA Champions Day Classic; Saint's Fan Remains Unbeaten on LA Champions Day

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. 

Additional highlights on Louisiana Champions Day included:

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.

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.