12/10/2016 5:30PM

Hail to the Nile holds off Fort Pulaski in Champions Turf

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Hodges Photography / Amanda Hodges Weir
Francesco Torres rides Hail to the Nile to victory in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf on Saturday.

Francisco Torres nursed Hail to the Nile along on a solo lead before the 5-year-old gelding held sway for a three-quarter-length triumph in the $100,000 Turf, the first of seven Thoroughbred stakes on the Louisiana Champions Day card Saturday at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Fort Pulaski gave closest chase for most of the 1 1/16-mile trip and at one point may have poked his head in front, but Hail to the Nile edged away once Torres set him down for the drive. The winner, owned by Valene Farms and trained by Sturges Ducoing, returned $11.20 after finishing in 1:43.85 over firm going.

“He (made the front) effortlessly,” Torres said. “When it came time to go, he dug in.”

String King, the millionaire 8-year-old, finished third as the 2-1 favorite in a field of six.

-- Big World answered a sustained stretch bid from Forest Lake with a determined effort in capturing the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies by a neck.

With Florent Geroux riding for owner Maggi Moss and trainer Tom Amoss, Big World amended for a recent defeat as an odds-on favorite with her fourth victory, and third in a stakes, from eight career starts. The 3-year-old daughter of Custom for Carlos returned $4.20 as the favorite in a field of six after completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.08.

“For a minute I thought we might get beat, but my filly showed a lot of heart,” Geroux said.

-- Moss, Amoss, and Geroux teamed earlier on the card to win the $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Starter Stakes with Watch My Smoke ($8.20), a gray 8-year-old who surged past 7-10 favorite Sir Genghis nearing the eighth pole en route to a 3 1/2-length score.

-- First Corona Down pulled a $56.80 upset with Alfonso Lujan aboard in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Derby for 3-year-old Quarter Horses, a 400-yard race in which the top seven finishers were separated by less than a length.

-- Hez Kwik ($27) and jockey Ricardo Hernandez Jr. prevailed in a three-way photo in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile for 2-year-old Quarter Horses.

-- Open Me a Corona ($5) led throughout under David Alvarez in a neck victory over race-long pursuer Heza Louisiana Dash in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic for older Quarter Horses.