Melissa Cantacuzene's The Pickett Factor got his revenge on Mobile Bay Saturday afternoon at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, beating his graded stakes-winning rival for the second time in three meetings this season with a dominant performance in the $150,000 Twinspires.com Louisiana Champions Day Classic.
Winning for the sixth time in eight career starts, the son of Gold Tribute sat patiently in second behind Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey's rabbit Know You Know – who ran off to a 4½-length early lead for his Ramsey-owned Joe Sharp-trained stablemate One King's Man – before reeling in his free-running adversary around the far turn and being challenged on the outside by Mobile Bay entering the stretch. As One King's Man's wide rally floundered in early stretch, it initially appeared to be a match race between the two favorites, but The Pickett Factor brushed off the physically imposing Mobile Bay and skipped clear to a 5¼-length victory for his third stakes tally.
Ridden by Luis Quinonez and trained by veteran conditioner and former Jack Van Berg assistant Ralph Irwin, The Pickett Factor traveled the 1 1/8-miles distance in 1:51.33 on the fast main track after earlier fractions of 23.68, 48.84, 1:13.99 and 1:38.49. After taking the majority of the late money and claiming slight 3-2 favoritism over 8-5 Mobile Bay, the 3-year-old dark bay gelding returned $5, $3 and $2.60, earning $90,000 to boost his career bankroll to $298,640.
The talented Louisiana-bred sophomores Mobile Bay and The Pickett Factor first met in the $100,000 Super Derby Prelude Stakes on Aug. 8, in which The Pickett Factor was a clear 1¼-length winner over a late-running Mobile Bay in third. Next out, going a sixteenth farther in the nine-furlong Grade II $400,000 Super Derby, Mobile Bay got the better of his opponent when winning by 2¼ lengths, with The Pickett Factor fading to a 3½-length-beaten fourth.
“Coming out of the gate he broke sharp. I got him to relax and he was good and in control. When horses started coming to him, he started to pick it up and went on about his business,” Quinonez said. “When (Mobile Bay) came up to me, my horse switched leads and I asked him and he took off.”
“We're going to give him a slight break right now,” Irwin said. “We've got some things penciled in like the ($200,000 Louisiana Premier Night Championship) at Delta (Downs) on Feb. 6. If he handles all that well, we'll take him up to Oaklawn (Park).”
Mobile Bay, under Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado, finished 1¾ lengths clear of Fruition Racing's Pat Devereaux-trained Stormdriver in third, returning $2.60 and $2.10. Stormdriver, ridden by Richard Eramia at odds of 6-1, rallied belatedly to pass One King's Man for the show, returning $3.
“He felt good. He settled well going into the first turn. On the second turn we split horses and hooked the winner, but he was much the best today,” Prado said. “The winner was going comfortably on the backside, so I knew I had to go with him. My horse has had a good year.”
“(The Pickett Factor) beat me today, but I'm happy enough with (Stormdriver's) race,” Eramia said. “The best horse won the race.”
After One King's Man, the field for the 25th running of the Louisiana Champions Day Classic was completed by Just Stormin, Know You Know and Udoknowjack.
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