(Edited press release)
Around 7 a.m. on April 19, as light rain fell, trainer Larry Jones on his pony, Pal, accompanied Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Friesan Fire and jockey Gabriel Saez to Keeneland’s main track for the colt’s final work at Keeneland before he heads to Churchill Downs for the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Jones galloped alongside Friesan Fire and Saez before turning the colt loose for his one-mile work, timed in 1:39.60. As the colt was rounding the final turn, a plane at Blue Grass Airport across Versailles Road took off with a roar, distracting a few observers but apparently not bothering Friesan Fire. Clockers caught Friesan Fire’s eighth-mile splits in :13.52, :12.41, :12.44, :12.63, :12.50, :12.48, 11:91, and 12.00.
“He came home well,” Jones said after the work. “They said he got the last three-eighths in :36, so that’s really good. He was blowing very little. It was easy for him, so that was good.”
The work marked the third work at Keeneland for Friesan Fire, who races for Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm, after he won the Louisiana Derby over a sloppy track at Fair Grounds on March 14. Jones said the A.P. Indy colt “needed a semblance of a little scrimmage” on Sunday.
“(I just wanted) to give him a good tightening work and (for him) to gallop out well,” Jones said. “When another horse came to him over on the backside, he tried to re-break and go with it, so he wound up going about a mile and a half before he got pulled up.”
Jones is hoping to improve on his last two efforts in the Kentucky Derby after also training his starters at Keeneland. In 2007, Hard Spun ran second to Street Sense , and last year Eight Belles ran second to Big Brown .
“I think he’s much better suited to the distance (of the Derby) than any of the last two horses we had there,” Jones said about Friesan Fire. “Pedigree-wise and just the way he acts, the distance is going to be more in his favor the farther he goes. He does have a good turn of foot. He’s got the tactical speed that you really want to have. He’s the total package, maybe better all the way around than what we’ve had there before.”
Jones said he expects that Friesan Fire will ship to Churchill on the afternoon of April 24. He would like for the colt to put in his final work before the Derby on Monday, April 27, “but will set up his schedule so he could work Sunday or Tuesday, depending on the weather.”