Jockey Francisco Torres guides Hail To The Nile to victory in the 26th running of the Louisiana Champions Day Turf at Fair Grounds.
Valene Farms’ Hail to the Nile was courageous in victory in Saturday’s $ 100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf on Louisiana Champions Day presented by Acadian Ambulance, 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.
Additional highlights on Louisiana Champions Day included:
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.
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.
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