Friesan Fire Faces Nine in 96th Louisiana Derby

NEW ORLEANS, LA (March 9, 2009) - Vinery Stables & Fox Hill Farms' Friesan Fire, winner of the Lecomte Stakes and Risen Star Stakes, heads a field of 10 entered Monday for the 96th running of the $600,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby Saturday at Fair Grounds.[asset|height=12|width=1]

The Louisiana Derby is the ninth race on Saturday's 12-race program. Louisiana Derby Day presented by Budweiser includes six stakes races, and 21 graded stakes winners were entered for the card. First post is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. CDT, with the Louisiana Derby set for 4:45 p.m.

Friesan Fire, a son of A. P. Indy out of the Dehere mare Bollinger, drew post No. 9 and has been installed as the 5-2 morning line choice in the Louisiana Derby. The Kentucky-bred, who can become the first horse in 16 years to sweep the Louisiana Derby series, breezed a bullet five furlongs in 58.20 Monday morning at Fair Grounds under the watchful eye of trainer Larry Jones with Saez in the irons.

"The horse is just getting very, very good right now," said Jones. "He did it without being asked."

Friesan Fire will be ridden by Gabriel Saez, the 21-year-old native of Port Darien, Panama, who rode Eclipse Award winner Proud Spell to victory in last year's Fair Grounds Oaks and Kentucky Oaks and another Jones-trained filly, Eight Belles, to a second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

The early second choice is IEAH Stables et al's Patena, pegged at 7-2, who ran second, beaten a length and a half by Friesan Fire in the Lecomte.  That race was Patena's only start this year but was run before the colt was sold and transferred to the barn of trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., who saddled Big Brown to win last spring's Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Patena, who won Woodbine's $150,000 Display Dec. 6, worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.40 handily on Monday morning at Gulfstream.

"He obviously has a lot of talent," said Dutrow after Monday's move, "and we're very pleased with what he showed us in his work today.  We're very happy with him right now."

Louisiana native Robby Albarado, six-time leading rider at Fair Grounds who won his only Louisiana Derby 10 years ago to the day Saturday aboard Kimberlite Pipe, gets the return call on Patena.

Virginia Tarra Trust's Giant Oak, second in Churchill's Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 29 and severely blocked when fifth in the Risen Star at last asking, is the third choice in the morning line at 4-1.  Trained by Illinois-based Chris Block, Giant Oak will be ridden by Irish-born jockey James Graham.

From the rail out, with jockeys and morning line odds, the Louisiana Derby field consists of Free Country, Kent Desormeaux (12-1); Soul Warrior, Shaun Bridgmohan (20-1); Patena, Albarado (7-2); Terrain, Julien Leparoux (10-1); Flying Pegasus, John Velazquez (8-1); Giant Oak, Graham (4-1); Uno Mas, Brian Hernandez Jr. (12-1); Papa Clem, Rafael Bejarano (8-1); Friesan Fire, Saez (5-2); and Nowhere to Hide, Corey Lanerie (15-1).

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.