NEW ORLEANS -- Friesan Fire did it again, running right back to his smart score in the Lecomte Stakes here at Fair Grounds last month with a decisive victory in the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday.
Settling into a nice position on the backstretch after mildly fighting jockey Gabriel Saez into the first turn, Friesan Fire ($7.60) burst from the lead pack at the top of the long Fair Grounds stretch and quickly collared Flying Pegasus, going on to a two-length win. Longshot Nowhere to Hide was farther back in third, with Uno Mas fourth, and tough-luck favorite Giant Oak a late-running fifth in the Grade 3, $200,000 Risen Star. Winning time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:45.11.
The win was the second graded stakes here Saturday for trainer Larry Jones and Saez, who captured the Mineshaft Handicap with Honest Man. The Jones-trained Just Jenda flopped as the favorite in the Silverbulletday, won by War Echo, but Friesan Fire came through again, giving Jones two early Triple Crown hopefuls, with Old Fashioned set to make his 3-year-old debut at Oaklawn Park. Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms owns Old Fashioned, and Porter co-owns Friesan Fire with the Vinery Stables.
Friesan Fire, an A.P. Indy colt, showed talent at 2, but has improved since Jones began racing the horse in blinkers this winter. Overeager in a December allowance race loss, Friesan Fire relaxed when he won the Lecomte, and after briefly pulling too hard Saturday, he came back to Saez once he was in behind horses.
"He was a little rank, but then he settled in," Jones said.
It Happened Again and Code of Honour were quick to the quarter-mile (23.34 seconds) and to the half (47.61), but then the pace slowed, with a third quarter in more than 26 seconds. That created a logjam in behind, which allowed front-runners to sweep three of the first four spots and caused trouble for some closers. Giant Oak was steadied hard past the half-mile pole and was in traffic most of the race.
"He never had a chance to run until the last eighth," trainer Chris Block said.
Making his first start since September, Flying Pegasus tracked the pace and made the lead into the stretch before being overtaken by the winner.
"He got a little tired," jockey Robby Albarado said. "He came out of the gate with a sprinter's mentality, but he settled down the backstretch."
Jones said if all went well, Friesan Fire would start next in the Louisiana Derby.