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Friesan Fire, General Quarters Headed for Rematch in Mineshaft

Fair Grounds’ upcoming Grade III Mineshaft Handicap on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 20 is shaping up as one of the most anticipated races of the season – no matter who ships in from out of town.

That’s because it appears that last year’s Grade II Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire and last year’s Grade I Blue Grass hero General Quarters are headed for a second battle in New Orleans at the Crescent City oval.  

Friesan Fire, owned by Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm, and General Quarters, owned and trained by Tom McCarthy, faced off for the first time in last year’s Kentucky Derby, again in last spring’s Preakness and then for a third time this winter in Fair Grounds’ Louisiana Handicap Jan. 23. In that recent local duel they finished first and second, respectively, a length-and-three-quarters apart.

However, Friesan Fire was nominated to Gulfstream’s Donn Handicap Feb. 6, but since his connections passed on shipping to South Florida in favor of a graded stakes just steps away from Friesan Fire’s stall, and since Tom McCarthy shipped his one-horse stable of General Quarters from Louisville before the season began with the long range goal of the Grade II New Orleans Handicap March 27, their second local duel in the Mineshaft appears imminent.

“I’m kind of glad we’re meeting up again,” said McCarthy on Super Bowl Sunday, the day after General Quarters breezed a half in 49.60. “It looks like it’s going to be the kind of race the public can get excited about. They might really enjoy it, and there will also be a lot of other good horses in there.

“The work yesterday (Saturday) was just a maintenance move,” said McCarthy of General Quarters’ breeze.  “We got just what we wanted. Robert Mayo was aboard for the move. It’s possible we will work him again next Saturday (Feb. 13), because he gets so aggressive sometimes he might hurt himself if we don’t.”

Giant Oak Gets Six-Furlong Breeze in Mineshaft Move Monday
Virginia Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak, fourth beaten a length-and-a-quarter in his last trip to the post in Churchill’s Grade II Clark Handicap but winner of the Arlington Classic last spring, is another locally-based 4-year-old capable of upsetting Friesan Fire and General Quarters in the upcoming Grade III Mineshaft Handicap Feb. 20
With that next goal in mind, Giant Oak’s connections breezed the Giant’s Causeway colt three-quarters in 1:15 flat Monday morning with leading rider James Graham in the irons.

“The work couldn’t have gone any better,” said trainer Neil Pessin. “He got the last quarter in 24.”

Rachel Alexandra Gets One More ‘Happy’ Gallop Monday Morning
Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra got one of her routine “happy” gallops once around the Fair Grounds main track Monday morning, according to Fair Grounds clocker Billy Pettingill.

“She came out on the track at about 6:30 a.m. looking very happy and enjoyed herself with an easy gallop once around the course,” said Pettingill. “She continues to look really great doing it.”

Louisiana-Born Horseman Wearing Super Bowl Savoring Smile at Fair Grounds Monday Morning
New Orleans native Spanky Broussard, who celebrated his 69th birthday on Super Bowl Sunday after winning Fair Grounds’ traditional and appropriately-named Black Gold Stakes Saturday, admitted he felt “pretty darn good” Monday morning at Fair Grounds. “That was a pretty good birthday present I got yesterday,” he said.

Pam Fitzgerald, assistant trainer for New Orleans-born Al Stall Jr., also enjoyed a very successful Super Bowl weekend. After flying west to saddle Brittlyn Stables’s Star Guitar to win the $200,000 Louisiana Premier Night Championship Saturday night at Delta Downs, Fitzgerald got two hours sleep prior to showing up for training hours at Fair Grounds Sunday morning.

Was she able to stay awake for the Super Bowl Sunday evening?  

“Oh yeah,” Fitzgerald said. “I went out to watch the game at a place I go to in my neighborhood, and there was so much energy in the crowd there I had no trouble at all getting into the game. It turned out to be a lot of fun.”

Bridgmohan Three Wins Away From 2,000-Win Milestone
With 1,997 lifetime victories, jockey Shaun Bridgmohan enters Monday’s Fair Grounds program three wins away from the 2,000-career win milestone with four mounts scheduled for the afternoon.

The Jamaican-born reinsman is slated to ride Summergrove Farm’s Alvin and David (12-1) in the second race, Maggi Moss’s Deputiformer (5-1) in the fourth, Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Knockout Bertie (4-1) in the sixth, and Pin Oak Stable’s Elision (6-1) in the eighth.