12/12/2015 8:12PM

The Pickett Factor dominates Louisiana Champions Day Classic

Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography
The Pickett Factor, with Luis Qunonez aboard, scores by 5 1/4 lengths in the Louisiana Champions Day Classic.

Sometime in 2013 the Louisiana breeder E.O. Pickett contacted trainer Ralph Irwin and asked him to come look at some yearlings that might be sold, and walking through fields at the Pickett farm near Coushatta, La., Irwin was struck by the appearance of a particular colt by Gold Tribute. Say this for Irwin: The man has an eye for talent.

The yearling in the field would be named The Pickett Factor, a nod to his breeder, and on Saturday at Fair Grounds, The Pickett Factor won the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, avenging a loss in the Super Derby to Mobile Bay with a 5 1/4-length victory over that rival.

Mobile Bay cruised up alongside The Pickett Factor in midstretch of the Classic, but where the Pickett Factor had given way in the Super Derby, his first start at 1 1/8 miles, he easily got that distance in his second try Saturday. He surged clear and won going away, his final furlong, straight into a strong headwind, in a solid 12.84 seconds.

“When horses started coming to him he picked it up and went about his business,” said winning jockey Luis Quinones. “When he switched leads turning for home, he really took off.”

The Pickett Factor took all the late betting and paid $5 to win as the narrow 3-2 favorite over Mobile Bay. Stormdriver finished decently and nailed third choice One King’s Man for show. The Pickett Factor was timed in 1:51.33 over a fast dirt track, the final time a product of a slow 48.84-second half-mile split. That fraction was especially soft considering the backstretch tailwind, and Know You Now, acting as a pacemaker for One King’s Man, somehow ran his second quarter-mile in 25.15 seconds with a 20 mile-per-hour wind at his back.

The scenario worked wonderfully for The Pickett Factor, who has plenty of speed but will let his rider ration it behind other horses. Quinonez sat second as the rabbit towed him comfortably along, and The Pickett Factor had plenty of energy to repel Mobile Bay’s homestretch challenge. Mobile Bay, winner of the Super Derby and the Zia Park Derby this year, made a good move while wide around the far turn, but once turned away could muster no further threat while clearly second best.

The Pickett Factor figured to stay nine furlongs better than his Super Derby suggested since his dam, Dynaspice, is a daughter of Dynaformer. The 3-year-old The Pickett Factor, a better-than-par Champions Day Classic winner, now has finished first in six of his eight races at distances ranging from six to nine furlongs. Last month, he sharply won the Gold Cup at Delta Downs (beating Mobile Bay’s brother, Galveston Harbor), and The Pickett Factor, brought along judiciously by the man who discovered him in a field, appears to be getting better with every start for owner Melissa Cantacuzene.