The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) isn't just about the horse. This edition boasts an unusually fertile crop of human-interest stories in the connections behind the horses.
Friesan Fire burned up the track April 27 at Churchill Downs, working five furlongs in a blazing :57 4/5 during his final serious move before the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I). Wearing red and white blinkers and carrying jockey Gabriel Saez, the 3-year-old son of A.P. Indy turned in splits of :11 1/5, :22 1/5, :33 3/5, and 45:1/5. Friesan Fire galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.
On April 19, as light rain fell, Friesan Fire posted his final work at Keeneland before he heads to Churchill Downs for the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Brereton C. Jones' homebred champion Proud Spell has been retired from racing and bred to Indian Charlie.
Kodiak Kowboy scored the first grade I victory of his career and became a millionaire in dramatic fashion, rallying late to edge the front-running Fabulous Strike by a head in the $300,000 Carter Handicap April 4 at Aqueduct in New York. It was the eighth win in 17 career races for Kodiak Kowboy, who was Canada's champion 2-year-old male in 2007.
Friesan Fire, whose Louisiana Derby (gr. II) romp cemented his status as one of the leading Triple Crown contenders, will most likely not have another race before the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), trainer Larry Jones said April 1.
Proud Spell will miss the April 4 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, according to trainer Larry Jones.
Join Trainer Larry Jones as he answers questions like: Tell about how your two leading Kentucky Derby contenders Old Fashioned and Friesan Fire are doing and what the plans are for them between now and the first Saturday in May.
Trainer Larry Jones says that Oaklawn Park leading jockey Terry Thompson will ride Fox Hill Farms' Old Fashioned in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. II) April 11.
Cindy Jones, wife and assistant to trainer Larry Jones, said all three of the stable's horses who who ran at Fair Grounds March 14, including Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Friesan Fire, came out of their races well.
Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm's Friesan Fire swept the Louisiana 3-year-old series and made a bold statement for the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) when overwhelming eight rivals to win the $600,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) by 7 1/4 lengths March 14 at Fair Grounds.
Seven 3-year-old fillies, led by probable favorite Just Jenda, will try to earn their first grades stakes victory in the $100,000 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) March 15 at Oaklawn Park.
Already regarded by many as the best 3-year-olds in the land, Fox Hills Farms' Old Fashioned will look to solidify himself as the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) favorite when he takes on eight rivals in the $300,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) March 14 at Oaklawn Park.
Winner of the Jan. 10 LeComte (gr. III) and Feb. 7 Risen Star (gr. III), Friesan Fire will try to sweep the Louisiana series for 3-year-olds and stamp himself as one of the top Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) contenders in the nation. The son of A.P. Indy--Bollinger was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
Champion Proud Spell returns to the races March 12 at Oaklawn Park, making her 2009 debut in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming event. Her regular rider, Gabriel Saez, will be aboard as the 4-year-old filly prepares for the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) April 4 at Oaklawn.
Fox Hill Farms' Honest Man, winner of the grade III Mineshaft Handicap in his last start, is the 121-pound highweight and 3-1 morning-line favorite for the $500,000, grade II New Orleans Handicap, which is contested at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt as part of the March 14 Louisiana Derby card at Fair Grounds.
He had to work a little harder than the typical 2-5 shot has to, but Old Fashioned pulled clear late and came out on top in his 2009 debut Feb. 16 with a 3 1/4-length victory over a stubborn Silver City in the $250,000 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park.
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 posted a two-length victory in the $200,000 Risen Star (gr. III) Feb. 7.
Fox Hill Farms' Honest Man stayed close to a slow pace, passed My Pal Charlie in upper stretch, and easily pulled away for a 4 1/4-length score in the $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III), the first of four graded stakes at Fair Grounds Feb. 7.
For the third time in nine weeks, Cindy Jones' Just Jenda and Heiligbrodt Racing Stable's Four Gifts will have a showdown as they head a field of eight 3-year-old fillies in the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 7 at Fair Grounds.
Proud Spell, an earner of $2,123,610, has not raced since finishing second in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion Stakes (gr. II) at Philadelphia Park last September. Prior to that effort, she scored in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I), and the Kentucky (gr. I), Alabama (gr. I), and Fair Grounds (gr. II) Oaks.
Larry Jones might have one of the top Kentucky Derby (gr. I) hopefuls this year, and he plans to bring the horse to Arkansas.
Friesan Fire, a talented 3-year-old colt who had disappointed in his last three starts, finally showed why trainer Larry Jones considered him a legitimate Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) prospect from the outset.
Indygo Mountain, who broke his maiden impressively Nov. 19 at Churchill Downs but had to be scratched from his next start because of a minor injury, was installed as the 3-1 morning-line choice in the $100,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds Jan. 10.
Counting down the top 10 Bloodhorse.com stories for 2008. Number 1. Da' Tara Springs Upset; Big Brown Eased
MAHUBAH'S CORNER, by Avalyn Hunter
Old Fashioned won the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) impressively and seems ready to add to his family's already sterling reputation. The son of Unbridled's Song is out of Collect Call, who decends from the family of notable producer Maggie B.B. This family has produced eight champions.
In what has to be one of the strongest and deepest 2-year-old allowance fields ever assembled at Fair Grounds, nine juveniles will go to the post in Thursday's one-mile test, several of whom have already excited fans with their dazzling performances.
Puglisi Racing and Woodfield Racing's Livin Lovin, runaway winner of the Tempted Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct last out, will face a full field of 2-year-old fillies Dec. 5, including morning-line favorite C.S. Silk, in the $500,000 Boyd's Gaming Delta Princess Powered by Youbet.com Stakes (gr. III).
Favored Old Fashioned made sure there wasn't a lot of suspense about the outcome of the $200,000 Remsen Stakes (gr. II) for 2-year-olds at Aqueduct Nov. 29. The son of Unbridled's Song grabbed the lead early and then romped to a 7 1/4-length victory in New York.
When Fox Hill Farms' Rick Porter acquired promising Argentine-bred Solar Flare last winter and sent him to trainer Larry Jones at Fair Grounds, there were high expectations. But as talented as the 4-year-old was, the son of Salt Lake arrived with issues to be worked out.
The Turf Publicists of America announced Nov. 12 that Larry Jones, trainer of the 3-year-old fillies Proud Spell and Eight Belles, has been chosen as the 2008 winner of the organization's Big Sport of Turfdom award.
- By Esther Marr
After several months, members of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission have upheld the decision of Delaware Park stewards to suspend and fine trainer Larry Jones because of an incident this spring in which his horse, Stones River, tested positive for clenbuterol.
When Vinery Stables transferred a handful of horses in-training from Steve Asmussen into the barn of Larry Jones earlier this summer, graded stakes winner Kodiak Kowboy grabbed much of the attention as the highest profile colt changing hands. But when Jones received his new shipment of horses Kodiak Kowboy wasn't necessarily the one he was most excited about. It was 2-year-old colt Friesan Fire.
For artist Merritt Finnell, painting horses was never his thing. Horses were his twin brother Michael's territory, and like many twins Merritt was different from Michael.
Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farms has hired Jeff Barkley as his private trainer, beginning a transition resulting from trainer Larry Jones' recent announcement that he will wind down his operation and retire.
A star-studded cast of seven talented sprinters led by grade I winners Fabulous Strike and First Defence will do battle in the $400,000 Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 27 at Belmont Park.
On Sept. 27, Honest Man will tell trainer Larry Jones if he is ready for prime time, as he makes what could be his final Breeders' Cup prep in the $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) at Turfway Park. He will take on five rivals in the 1 1/8-mile test on Polytrack.
Before trainer Larry Jones saddles Honest Man in the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) at Turfway Park Saturday, he will send out multiple graded stakes winner Maren's Meadow in the Kentucky Cup Distaff (gr. III).
- By Ron Mitchell
Trainer Larry Jones, who earlier this year saddled Proud Spell to win the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and the following day had ill-fated Eight Belles finish second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), said he plans to retire by the end of 2009.
Six horses, including Philip Iselin Handicap (gr. II) winner Honest Man, are considered probable for the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) at Turfway Park Sept. 27.
- By Ron Mitchell
Trainer Larry Jones has appealed a seven-day suspension and $500 fine levied by the stewards at Delaware Park in connection with the highly-publicized case in which the horse Stones River tested positive for the prohibited substance Clenbuterol.
On Sept. 20, Proud Spell will shoot for her biggest payday to date, as she takes on six rivals in the $750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion (gr. II) at Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack. On paper, the 1 1/16-mile dirt event is a significant step down in class for the Proud Citizen filly, who has won four times this season, including the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Alabama Stakes (gr. I).
Not long after Curlin's majority owner Jess Jackson indicated the reigning Horse of the Year might show up at Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup after all, trainer Larry Jones stated that Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Proud Spell could be headed to California too. Jones, who previously said Proud Spell was unlikely for the Breeders' Cup, made the comments during a national media teleconference Sept. 16.
A year ago, Larry Jones saddled Proud Spell to victory in the Matron Stakes (gr. II). Jones can only hope his entry in this year's Matron, On the Menu, is destined for the same kind of success. On Sept. 13, she tries stakes company for the first time in the prestigious $250,000 event for 2-year-old fillies at Belmont.
With more than 200 people in attendance, this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) runner-up Eight Belles was memorialized in a public ceremony in the garden of the Kentucky Derby Museum Sept. 7.
Eight Belles, who had to be euthanized on the Churchill Downs racetrack shortly after finishing second in this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), will be memorialized in a ceremony Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. in the Kentucky Derby Museum's gardens.
Graeme Six is the only graded stakes winner entered in the $200,000 Endine Stakes (gr. III), but she will have to deal with eight capable fillies and mares, including High Bank Syndicate's Sweet Hope, who was runner-up to Indian Blessing last out.
With Curlin all but ruled out as a potential starter for the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) by majority owner Jess Jackson due to the synthetic surface, it looks as though another division leader, Proud Spell, also will bypass the Breeders' Cup, according to trainer Larry Jones.
Proud Spell reasserted her position as the best 3-year-old filly in the land when she bettered Music Note in a stirring stretch drive to win the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (gr. I) by a head at Saratoga Aug. 16.
An honest pace helped the stalking Honest Man register victory over a heavily favored Grasshopper in the $300,000 Philip H. Iselin Beeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth Park Aug. 16.
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