Friesan Fire Burns Rivals Once Again in 96th Louisiana Derby

NEW ORLEANS, LA (March 14, 2009) – Vinery Stable and Fox Hill Farm’s Friesan Fire has stood in the shadow of his stable mate Old Fashioned all winter, but may have emerged from behind the curtain with his dominant 7 1/4-length win in the 96th running of the $600,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Saturday’s Louisiana Derby tally, which was the largest margin of victory in Fair Grounds’ signature race since 1963, completed Friesan Fire’s sweep of Fair Grounds’ three graded races for sophomores on the Triple Crown trail, which began with the Grade III Lecomte Jan. 10 and the Grade III Risen Star Feb. 7.

Friesan Fire, ridden by Gabriel Saez and trained by Larry Jones, pressed the pace of California invader Papa Clem, took command in upper stretch and drew off steadily the rest of the way.

He became the first horse to sweep Fair Grounds’ series since Dixieland Heat accomplished the feat in 1993 and Line in the Sand was awarded the sweep through a disqualification in 1992.

“He was awesome the way he was going so smooth early,” said Saez. “He made me so confident.  When I asked him to go – he did it so easy I can’t explain it.”

A son of 1992 Horse of the Year A. P. Indy, Friesan Fire paid $6.40, $4.20 and $3, toured the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:43.46, and increased his career earnings to $603,265 with his fourth win in seven lifetime starts.

After Papa Clem set early splits of 24.12 and 48.75, he could not stay with the winner late but gamely held the runner-up spot, returning $4.80 and $4.20 while holding of the late-running Terrain by a head.  Terrain paid $5.20 to show.

“Papa Clem was the horse we were really worried about,” said assistant trainer Cindy Jones, who saddled Friesan Fire while her husband Larry saddled Old Fashioned, who finished second as the odds-on favorite in Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes 80 minutes after the Louisiana Derby.   “When we pulled away from Papa Clem so easily, I knew we had it won.

“I followed the trainer’s instructions completely,” said Cindy Jones. “I dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’ just like he told me to do.  Maybe people will start paying attention to this horse a little more after the way he ran today.”

Reached by telephone at Oaklawn where he watched the race on television, Larry Jones gently chided his wife.

“I thought he could have run much better if I was there,” laughed Jones. “But seriously, we’re very happy with (Friesan Fire’s) performance. We’re improving every race.”

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation’s third-oldest Thoroughbred racing facility, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and nine off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. Fair Grounds’ 137th Thoroughbred season will run from Nov. 14, 2008, through March 29, 2009, and its inaugural Quarter Horse meet was conducted from Aug. 20-24, 2008. Information about Fair Grounds can be found on the Internet at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.