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) (VIDEO) by 7 1/4 lengths March 14 at Fair Grounds.
In what was supposed to be a competitive contest amongst several top 3-year-old Derby contenders, Friesan Fire made it look easy. The son of A.P. Indy stalked the pace set by Papa Clem, inched closer to the leader around the far turn and took over approaching the lane when asked by Gabriel Saez. Ahead by two lengths at the eighth-pole, Friesan Fire extended his lead with every stride and put the race away by mid-stretch. Saez pumped his fist in celebration before the bay colt crossed the wire in a final time 1:43.46 on the sloppy main track.
“He was awesome, the way he was going so smooth early,” said Saez. “He made me so confident. When I asked him to go he did it so easy. I can’t explain it.”
Friesan Fire's 7 1/4-length margin of victory in the Louisiana Derby was the largest since 1963. He became the first horse to sweep Fair Grounds’ series since Dixieland Heat accomplished the feat in 1993.
Trained by Larry Jones, Friesan Fire is undefeated in three starts as a sophomore. He won the Jan. 10 LeComte Stakes (gr. III) by 1 1/2 lengths and then captured the Risen Star (gr. III) by two lengths Feb. 7 – both at Fair Grounds. Friesan Fire was facing four of the same rivals he dispatched in the Risen Star, but also had to deal with Lecomte runner-up Patena, California shipper Papa Clem and Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) runner-up Terrain, who was making his 3-year-old debut. None of them were a problem.
Bo Hirsch’s Papa Clem, the leader until the straightened away, did well to hold second under Rafael Bejarano. They were a head in front of Adele Dilschneider’s Terrain and Julien Leparoux. Giant Oak, last through three-quarters, was up late to get fourth.
Patena, the second betting choice, was never a factor and finished next-to-last.
Papa Clem, who is trained by Gary Stute, posted fractions of :24.12, :48.75 and 1:13.75. Along with Friesan Fire, Flying Pegasus was up close in the early going and Free Country made an early move along the rail to get into brief contention.
“Papa Clem was the horse we were really worried about,” said assistant trainer Cindy Jones, who saddled Friesan Fire while her husband saddled Old Fashioned, who finished second as the odds-on favorite in Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes (gr. II) 80 minutes after the Louisiana Derby. “When we pulled away from Papa Clem so easily, I knew we had it won.
“I followed the trainer’s instructions completely. I dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’ just like he told me to do. Maybe people will start paying attention to this horse a little more after the way he ran today.”
Out of the Dehere mare Bollinger, Friesan Fire was bred in Kentucky by Grapestock LLC. He improved his record to 4-1-1 from seven starts with earnings of $603,265.
The winner paid $6.40, $4.20 and $3. The exacta (9-8) returned $43.40. The trifecta (9-8-4) was worth $395.20.
Papa Clem, runner-up to Pioneerof the Nile in the Feb. 7 Robert B. Lewis (gr. II) at Santa Anita, earned $120,000 for his second-place effort. This was his first start on natural dirt.
“He tried really hard," said Bejarano of Papa Clem. "I thought he was really comfortable through the race. I am very pleased with his progression and I think he liked the surface."