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Ron the Greek: A Rising Star for the Risen Star?

Jack Hammer’s Ron the Greek, who went from worst to first to win Saturday’s Grade III Lecomte Stakes at a mile and 40 yards with a dominating stretch rally, looks like a horse that will like even longer distances, so trainer Tom Amoss was asked Sunday morning if his colt might be pointed for Fair Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth Feb. 20.

“That’s a decision I’ll have to talk about with the owner over the next few days,” said Amoss, “but certainly that race would seem to be a possible next logical step. We’re very pleased with the way he ran yesterday. That was a big step up for him and I thought he showed a lot of promise.”

Should Hammer and Amoss select the Risen Star, with its new, richer purse this year of $300,000 and its new Grade II status, the horse will be following in the steps of Friesan Fire, who parlayed his 2009 Lecomte win to another in the Risen Star and still another in the Grade II Louisiana Derby which led to his status as the favorite in last spring’s Kentucky Derby.  

Also on Saturday, Friesan Fire showed signs of returning to his best form by winning the $75,000 Louisiana Handicap in his second start back after being injured in last spring’s Preakness.

Is Ron the Greek this year’s Friesan Fire? Certainly if he turned out to be, it would cement the status of Fair Grounds’ sophomore series as an excellent training ground for Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.

According to Amoss, Ron the Greek was named after a friend of the owner’s who died of cancer, but did live to know that the horse was named after him and was able to visit the horse briefly before he died.

Amoss, whose nine local training titles are more than any other conditioner in Fair Grounds history, also updated the status of his other runners on Saturday’s Road to the Derby Kickoff Day program.

Pop-A-Top’s Red Hot Buddha, eighth in the $75,000 Tiffany Lass: “She’ll go back to sprinting.”

Web’s Gem Stable’s Oculuna, fifth in the $75,000 Dr. Leggio Memorial: “She came out of her race fine. We’ll look around for another spot for her.”

Hunter Run Stable’s Tempo Five, fourth in the $75,000 Gaudin Memorial: “I’m tired of chasing those horses (Cash Refund and Euroears). I don’t want to see them again.”  

Louisiana Handicap Hero Friesan Fire Moving Forward
Vinery Stable and Fox Hill Farm’s Friesan Fire, last season’s Grade II Louisiana Derby winner and post time favorite for last spring’s Kentucky Derby, came out of his 1 3 /4-length victory in Saturday’s  $75,000 Louisiana Handicap in good order, according to Scott Blasi, Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen’s invaluable longtime assistant.

“He came out of yesterday’s race real good,” said Blasi Sunday morning during training hours. “We got what we wanted. Anytime you can stay home and win a race for $75,000 – there’s nothing wrong with that. The weather during the month of December here really killed us and set back with our training. Now, we’re getting back on schedule again. He got a lot out of that race yesterday.

Letsgetitonmon (third in Saturday’s Grade III Lecomte) is another horse who moved forward yesterday,” said Blasi of the Asmussen-trained sophomore owned by Bob Zollars and Mark Wagner. “With 3-year-olds at this time of year, if they keep performing well and showing improvement each time, you just let them keep doing that until they find their level.  

“For instance, take a horse like Soul Warrior last year,” said Blasi. “He kept improving and went on to win the $750,000 West Virginia Derby. There’s nothing wrong with that. The point is, at this time of year, you just have to let them show you what they can do.”

McCarthy Pleased with General Quarters’ Runner-Up Louisiana Handicap Performance
Tom McCarthy, owner and trainer of General Quarters, last spring’s Grade I Blue Grass winner who finished second in Saturday’s $75,000 Louisiana Handicap, reported his horse came out of Saturday’s effort in fine shape and was doing well Sunday morning.

“I was pleased with (General Quarters’) race yesterday,” said McCarthy during training hours as he supervised a blacksmith filing a rear shoe on his one-horse stable. “He got a little tired right at the end but I expected that. If the weather had been better earlier in the month, I might have been able to do a little more with him to get him ready. He came out of the race fine. He yelled for his breakfast this morning.

“We won’t decide on his next race until we see how he trains over the next few days,” McCarthy said. “I’d like to get another 35 or 40 pounds off of him, but he keeps showing me that tremendous appetite he has.”