Home of the Louisiana Derby

Friesan Fire Shines Brightest in Grade III Lecomte

NEW ORLEANS, La (January 10, 2009) - Along came Jones - once again - in the $100,000 Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds.

Trainer Larry Jones gave a leg up to jockey Gabriel Saez aboard Vinery Stable and Fox Hill Farms' Friesan Fire, who went on to post a 1 1/2-length victory in Saturday's Lecomte for 3-year-olds. Barely a half-hour earlier, Jones sent out wife Cindy's Just Jenda, who took the $75,000 Tiffany Lass for 3-year-old fillies.

Jones became the second trainer in as many years to sweep the 3-year-old stakes on Fair Grounds' "Road to the Derby" Kickoff Day.

"I found a nail that came out of a shoe in Friesan Fire's stall this morning," said Cindy Jones as she awaited Friesan Fire's return to the winner's circle.  "I put it in my pocket and carried it today because I thought that might turn out to be a lucky horseshoe for us."

It did. Friesan Fire, always well placed, took command near the top of the short stretch and proved best the rest of the way in the Lecomte, the first of three graded races in the Louisiana Derby Series.

The son of A. P. Indy covered the mile in 1:37.67, less than a tenth of a second off the stakes record.

Friesan Fire, who finished third in the Grade II Futurity in September at Belmont Park and fourth in the Grade III Nashua in November at Aqueduct, underlined that potential while paying $6.80, $4.20 and $3.20.  The bay colt almost doubled his career earnings to $123,265 with his second win from five lifetime starts.

"He did well," said Larry Jones, who won the Lecomte for the second time in three years. "He broke well and got to relax between horses. (Saez) took him out and he finished up the race."

Patena, who came into the Lecomte off a win in the Display Stakes at Woodbine, rallied late for the place, returning $4.80 and $3.40, while pacesetter Au Moon, who set early fractions of 24.08 and 48.67, weakened to third, another 2 1/2 lengths back, and paid $4 to show.

In the Tiffany Lass, Just Jenda pulled away from the front-running and previously undefeated Selva in the late stages for a 1 3/4-length win under a confident ride by Terry Thompson.

Just Jenda, whose only career loss came in her previous start in the Grade III Delta Princess Stakes last month, returned to her winning ways with a performance that didn't surprise Larry Jones or Thompson.

"It was just like we figured all along," Larry Jones said. "She never looked like she got hold of that track over there (Delta Downs)."

Thompson echoed the trainer's thoughts. "Usually, she breaks sharp like she did today," he said. "When she ran over there (at Delta), it seemed like she was just spinning her wheels."

Just Jenda paid $7, $3.60 and $2.20 while earning her third victory from four lifetime starts and increasing her lifetime earnings to $128,900. The running time for the mile 1:38.15.

Selva, who set early fractions of 23.67 and 47.52, paid $2.80 and $2.10, while favored Four Gifts was another 2 3/4 lengths back in third. She paid $2.10 to show.

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.