Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farms’ Friesan Fire stamped himself as a legitimate Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) contender by winning his second consecutive graded stakes race at Fair Grounds. This time, the A.P. Indy colt took over at the top of the lane and drew away for a two-length victory in the $200,000 Risen Star (gr. III) (VIDEO) Feb. 7.
Ridden by Gabriel Saez, who teamed with trainer Larry Jones for two graded stakes victories on the day, Friesan Fire received a beautiful stalking trip in a full field of 13 sophomores. He settled nicely behind stablemate and pacesetter It Happened Again, and longshot Code of Honour through splits of :23.34, :47.61, and 1:13.64.
Flying Pegasus was also in contention, and the Ralph Nicks trainee took a brief lead while coming out of the final turn. But Friesan Fire had plenty left in the tank for the drive and breezed by his rival at the top of the lane. He had a half-length advantage at the eighth-pole, and after extending his lead in upper stretch, was never seriously threatened while stopping the clock in 1:45.11 for 1 1/16 miles on the 'fast' main track.
Friesan Fire, who won the Jan. 10 LeComte Stakes (gr. III) by 1 1/2 lengths, became the first horse to win the first two legs of the Louisiana Derby series since Fly Cry in 1994.
“When he finds the racetrack, he can really run,” said Jones. “We used the workout (Feb. 2) to teach him to relax. It looked slow, but he finished fast. This horse is a late foal (April 30), combined with being an A.P. Indy, that usually means a late bloomer. We are pleased at his progress. We think his best is before him.”
Flying Pegasus finished a strong second, 1 3/4 lengths better than Uno Mas. Nowhere to Hide was fourth. The 2-1 betting choice, Giant Oak, finished fifth in his 3-year-old debut after missing the break and being caught in traffic through the turn.
Friesan Fire, who broke his maiden at first asking last August at Delaware Park before finishing third in the Futurity Stakes (gr. II) and fourth in the Nashua Stakes (gr. II), is now 3-1-1 from six starts with earnings of $243,265. He was bred in Kentucky by Grapestock and is out of the Dehere mare Bollinger.
The second betting choice, Friesan Fire paid $7.60, $4.60, and $3.40. The exacta (6-12) returned $76 and the trifecta (6-12-5) netted $635.80.
Soul Warrior finished sixth, followed by Indygo Mountain, Au Moon, Dumar, It Happened Again, Map of the World, Summer’s Empire, and Code of Honour.