Three-Year-Old Update

by Ed Meyer

posted on January 12, 2009 in News | No Comments >>

Friesan Fire took a big step forward on the Kentucky Derby trail Saturday at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, rallying to the lead in the stretch run and winning off by 1 1/2 lengths.

Patena also ran well late to take second and Au Moon was third. But it was Friesan Fire, a Kentucky-bred colt by A.P. Indy, who took the important “next step” that marks a newly turned 3-year-old as a legitimate Triple Crown prospect.

Friesan Fire, trained by Larry Jones for Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm, showed last fall he had potential, finishing third in the Grade II Futurity in September at Belmont Park and fourth in the Grade III Nashua in November at Aqueduct. But he needed Saturday’s showing to move along to the top rank.

“He did well,” said Jones, who won the LeComte for the second time in three years. “He broke well and got to relax between horses. (Winning jockey Gabriel Saez) took him out and he finished up the race.”

All things being equal, the top three finishers and Uno Mas, who completed the superfecta, could be expected to continue along the Louisiana Derby-Arkansas Derby trail on the Road to the Roses.

Bob Baffert saddled three of the nine starters in Sunday’s $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita, and the least likely of the three got the big prize. Century Park, winless but for a maiden victory, shot to the lead under jockey Tyler Baze and was never headed, winning by 1 length over the favorite, Haka. Will O Way was third. Baffert’s other starters, Toro Bonito and Jemmealey, finished seventh and ninth, respectively. Century Park , a Florida-bred daughter of General Meeting, bred and owned by Donald Dizney, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.32. “I expected her to be on the lead,” Baffert said. That’s why I put Tyler on her. We wanted to run 1-2-3, but at least we got a win out of it, anyhow. This filly really has trained well over this surface. She really likes it. We knew it was a step up for her … but we took a chance. I thought Tyler was a good fit for her. He put her on the lead, put them all to sleep and got the job done.”

Pumpkin Shell came from last of nine to win Saturday’s $65,000 Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct, beating Chocolate Pop by 1 length. Don’t Forget Gil was third while the favorite, Flashing, had a rough trip and got home eighth of nine. Pumpkin Shell, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Lion Heart, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:42.30. Charles Lopez rode for trainer David “Slam” Donk. “I didn’t know if she was better on turf or dirt, but I could be convinced after today,” Donk said. “It’s nice to see her validate the last win. We knew we wanted to run her two turns. I’m not going to overdo it, I’m going to space her out.” He said he is eyeing the Feb. 22nd Busher at 1 1/16 miles.

Just Jenda rallied from last of five to win Saturday’s $75,000 Tiffany Lass Stakes at Fairgrounds. Trained by Larry Jones for his wife, Cindy, and ridden by Terry Thompson, Just Jenda drew clear in the final sixteenth to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Selva. The favorite, Four Gifts, settled for third. Just Jenda, a Kentucky-bred filly by Menifee, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.15. Just Jenda suffered her only career loss in the Grade III Delta Princess Stakes last month at Delta Downs. Jones said the return to form was no surprise. “It was just like we figured all along,” he said. “She never looked like she got hold of that track over there.”

Ultra Blend tracked the pace in Saturday’s $75,000 Tiburon Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, then took command in the stretch and went on to win by 3 lengths over Pretty Katherine. Point of Reference was third. Ultra Blend, a California-bred daughter of Richly Blended, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.62. Roberto Gonzalez had the mount for trainer Steve Sherman.