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Friesan Fire Moving Forward to Louisiana Derby March 14

Headlines for Sunday, February 08, 2009

  • Friesan Fire Moving Forward to Louisiana Derby March 14
  • ‘Pegasus' Proves Self as Louisiana Derby Possibility
  • War Echo Where She Needs to Be Right Now
  • Block's Horse Blocked Again
  • Indygo Mountain Taken Off Triple Crown Trail


Friesan Fire Moving Forward to Louisiana Derby March 14

NEW ORLEANS, La. - As the two-length winner of Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Risen Star Stakes, Vinery Stable and Fox Hill Farms' Friesan Fire is the hottest horse on the grounds that is headed for Fair Grounds' centerpiece race - the $600,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby  March 14.

But even better news around trainer Larry Jones' barn Sunday morning was that both of the barn's winners at Fair Grounds Saturday came out of the Louisiana Derby Preview Day program in good order and appear ready for a return next month. That not only includes Friesan Fire, but also Fox Hill Farms' Honest Man, 4 1/4 length winner of Saturday's Grade III Mineshaft Handicap.

"We're very proud of both of them," said Cindy Jones, wife of the trainer, Sunday morning, "and we're looking forward to those next races here.

"As for Just Jenda (who finished third in Saturday's Grade III Silverbulletday Stakes as the public choice), we're not sure what happened to her yesterday," said Cindy Jones, who also owns the 3-year-old filly. "We haven't figured that one out, yet.

"And concerning It Happened Again (pace setter in the Risen Star who tired to finish 10th)," Cindy Jones added, "Larry thinks that he may not have liked the surface here.  Larry is almost always right about things like that, especially when they don't train that well over it.  He said the same thing about Hard Spun at Oaklawn two years ago, and the same thing about Just Jenda at Delta Downs this winter, and he was right both times, so It Happened Again will be sent somewhere else for his next race."  

There was also a final Cindy Jones update on the status of rotating colors of Friesan Fire's dual ownership.

"You know, as long as the horse keeps winning, the colors worn for the latest win aren't supposed to be rotated," she said, "so we were kidding (Vinery principal) Tom Ludt after the race yesterday, saying, ‘Now you're going to have to start rooting for the horse to lose.' "

Also joining in the festivities around the Jones barn, and earlier in the racing office, was Freisan Fire and Honest Man's winning jockey Gabriel Saez and his agent Ruben Munoz.

"What can we get for everybody this morning?" asked Munoz rhetorically as they made their morning rounds. "Surely, we can get you more than just donuts."


‘Pegasus' Proves Self as Louisiana Derby Possibility

 Trainer Ralph Nicks, conditioner of Risen Star runner-up Flying Pegasus, cheerfully accepted congratulations from Fair Grounds' assistant racing secretary Jon Anthony Martin Sunday morning at the same time he allowed himself an opportunity for a gentle rib.

 "If you hadn't thrown me on the outside like that (referring to Flying Pegasus' unfortunate draw of post position No. 12 in the 13-horse field)," Nicks said with a wink at Martin, "we might have won the whole thing."

Nicks was kidding, of course, but Flying Pegasus' excellent run Saturday after being away from competition since a second-place finish in Belmont's Grade II Futurity last September, left Fair Grounds with another solid candidate for the upcoming Louisiana Derby.  Was that in the plans?

"We'll let him tell us that," said Nicks.  "We'll see what he says after a few days.  That's one of the plans. He came back good."

Friesan Fire and Flying Pegasus are among 12 of the 13 starters in the Risen Star who were included in the list of 401 early nominations to the 2009 Triple Crown.


War Echo Where She Needs to Be Right Now

Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen accepted congratulations on behalf of Winchell Thoroughbreds' War Echo, who won Saturday's Grade III Silverbulletday Stakes as the final scheduled prep for the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks on March 14.

"She's where she needs to be right now," said Asmussen, who holds a commanding lead in his quest for an eighth Fair Grounds training title.

Asmussen started three colts in Saturday's Risen Star - third-place runner Uno Mas, sixth-place finisher Soul Warrior, and Fair Grounds' leading owner Heiligbrodt Racing's Dumar, who was ninth in Saturday's test. Those three were among 25 Asmussen-conditioned Triple Crown nominations, most of any trainer.

The Asmussen-trained Haynesfield captured the Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday.

"Right now (12 weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby), we're just trying to stay in the game," Asmussen added.


Block's Horse Blocked Again

Virginia Tarra Trust's Giant Oak, post time favorite in Saturday's Grade III Risen Star Stakes, closed belatedly to get up for fifth after multiple traffic problems.

"It appears he came out of the race all right," said Block by telephone Sunday morning, "but he had a nightmare trip yesterday.  It was just what I was afraid of with a big field like that."

Giant Oak, who was forced five wide around the field in his previous start when second in Churchill's Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last Nov. 29, encountered more serious traffic problems Saturday.

"We were just building momentum when they started coming back to us yesterday." Block said.  "That's when we started having trouble.  We ran into a logjam.  It was frustrating.  I don't feel bad for myself.  I feel bad for the horse.  But I'm proud of him.  He finally got to run at about the eighth pole or maybe inside of that, but he closed very well after that.

"As for the Louisiana Derby," Block said.  "I don't know right now.  I love the surface here, but it's a narrow track, and with another large field we might run into the same kinds of problems.  If there's a smaller field likely for the Louisiana Derby, it would help us make a decision to come back.  I want to run right here."


Indygo Mountain Taken Off Triple Crown Trail

Clarence Scharbauer Jr's Indygo Mountain, seventh in Saturday's Risen Star, came out of the race well but has been taken off the Triple Crown Trail.

"We have no excuses," trainer Bret Calhoun said Sunday morning.  "We had a good trip, yesterday.  We just need to regroup with this horse.  He had some problems earlier this winter and we need to take some time with him now.  It doesn't look like he'll be ready for the big dance.  He needs to freshen up a little bit.  Luckily, Mr. Scharbauer has the other horse (Oaklawn's Southwest Stakes-bound Silver City) to keep his hopes alive this spring."