The first three finishers in the Jan. 23 Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds are set to battle again in the Feb. 20 Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) at the same 1 1/16-mile distance over the New Orleans oval.
Friesen Fire, who won the Louisiana Handicap in a pace-setting effort, was installed the 7-5 favorite over 2-1 General Quarters and 3-1 Good and Lucky, the respective second- and third-place finishers in the Louisiana Handicap.
Friesan Fire, by A.P. Indy, showed a distinct liking for Fair Grounds while on the 2009 Triple Crown, rattling off consecutive wins in the Lecomte (gr. III) and Risen Star (gr. III) Stakes and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II). He disappointed as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), finishing second to last, and then ran unplaced in the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Rested until December, Freisan Fire finished an uninspiring third at Fair Grounds in what served as a prep for the Louisiana Handicap. The prep must have agreed with him as he coasted home in the Louisiana Handicap by 1 3/4 lengths.
Trained by Steve Asmussen for Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm, Friesan Fire will carry top weight of 122 pounds, four more than he handled in the Louisiana Handicap and one more than General Quarters will tote. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride for the third straight time.
General Quarters also was a big name on the same Triple Crown trail but in a different local. The son of Sky Mesa won the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs and the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, but he too failed to make much of an impression in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He also was rested until December and was beaten just a half-length at Fair Grounds in his first race back in a prep for the Louisiana Handicap. Robby Albarado gets the mount for the second straight time for owner/trainer Thomas R. McCarthy.
Good and Lucky gets a break in the weights, down to 118 pounds from the 122 pounds he carried when he defended his title in the Louisiana Handicap. The 7-year-old son of Wild Rush won the Tenacious Handicap at Fair Grounds in December right before his third in the Louisiana Handicap and sports an earlier stakes win at the track for owners Laconian Racing Stable, Steve Organ, and Josie Carroll, the trainer. Jockey Shane Sellers get the call again.
Stonehouse, who finished about five lengths back in fifth behind Good and Lucky in the Tenacious, is the most experienced of the contestants, with 37 starts. The 6-year-old son of Chester House has won or placed in a dozen stakes but none at Fair Grounds despite 11 starts at the track. He is owned by Richard Rudolph and Michael Vranich, trained by Joseph Broussard, and will carry 116 pounds.
Four-year-old Giant Oak , who also will tote 121 pounds, hasn’t raced since finishing a solid fourth, beaten 1 1/4 lengths in the Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in November. He has started twice at Fair Grounds, in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby, but failed to finish in the top three. The son of Giant's Causeway is owned by Virginia H. Tarra Trust and is trained by Chris Block.
Rounding out the field is Country Flavor, by Empire Maker and trained by Greg Geier for Jim Tafel. This will be Country Flavor’s initial stakes try. He enters off a Jan. 15 triumph by 4 3/4 lengths over 1 1/16 miles at Fair Grounds over a sloppy track.
Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III), 1 1/16 miles, Feb. 20, Race 11, Time 5:13 CDT.
Post Horse Jockey Weight Trainer Odds
1. General Quarters, R. Albarado, 121, T.R. McCarthy, 2-1
2. Friesan Fire, S. Bridgmohan, 122, S. Asmussen, 7-5
3. Country Flavor, D. Cohen, 114, G. Geier, 20-1
4. Stonehouse, M. Mena, 116, J. Broussard 12-1
5. Giant Oak, J. Graham, 121, N.L. Pessin 3-1
6. Good and Lucky, S.J. Sellers, 118, J. Carroll 8-1