FRIESAN FIRE TURNS IN FINAL KEENELAND WORK BEFORE HEADING TO LOUISVILLE

On Sunday around 7 a.m. as light rain fell, trainer Larry Jones on his pony, Pal, accompanied Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Friesan Fire and jockey Gabriel Saez to Keeneland’s main track for the colt’s final work at Keeneland before he heads to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). Jones galloped alongside Friesan Fire and Saez before turning the colt loose for his one-mile work, timed in 1:39.60.

As the colt was rounding the final turn, a huge plane at Blue Grass Airport across Versailles Road took off with a thunderous roar, distracting a few observers but apparently not bothering Friesan Fire. Clockers caught Friesan Fire’s eighth-mile splits in :13.52, :12.41, :12.44, :12.63, :12.50, :12.48, 11:91 and 12.00.

“He came home well,” Jones said after the work back at Barn 12. “They said he got the last three-eighths in :36, so that’s really good. He was blowing very little. It was easy for him, so that was good.”

Today’s work marked the third work at Keeneland for Friesan Fire, who races for Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm, after he won the Louisiana Derby over a sloppy track at Fair Grounds on March 14. Jones said the A.P. Indy colt “needed a semblance of a little scrimmage” on Sunday.

“(I just wanted) to give him a good tightening work and (for him) to gallop out well,” Jones said. “When another horse came to him over on the backside, he tried to re-break and go with it, so he wound up going about a mile and a half before he got pulled up.”

Jones is hoping to improve on his last two efforts in the Kentucky Derby after also training his starters at Keeneland. In 2007, Hard Spun ran second to Street Sense. Last year, Eight Belles ran second to Big Brown.

“I think he’s much better suited to the distance (of the Derby) than any of the last two horses we had there,” Jones said about Friesan Fire. “Pedigree-wise and just the way he acts, the distance is going to be more in his favor the farther he goes. He does have a good turn of foot. He’s got the tactical speed that you really want to have. He’s the total package, maybe better all the way around than what we’ve had there before.”

Jones said he expects that Friesan Fire will ship to Churchill on the afternoon of Friday, April 24. He would like for the colt to put in his final work before the Derby on Monday, April 27 “but will set up his schedule so he could work Sunday or Tuesday, depending on the weather.”


WINNING IS BEST ADVICE FOR PLETCHER BARN

On Saturday, trainer Todd Pletcher was in Florida, where his Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful Dunkirk worked at Palm Meadows. Meanwhile at Keeneland, his team delivered three wins on the 10-race card as Belmont (G1) third-place finisher Ready’s Echo blew by his rivals to win a seven-furlong allowance race in his 2009 debut; Advice came from last to first to take the Coolmore Lexington (G2) for Pletcher’s third win in the race; and the 3-year-old filly La Rocca scored her first victory by a nose.

“We were pretty pumped up yesterday,” said Pletcher’s assistant Tristan Barry. “It’s always nice when your hard work pays off.”

Advice, owned by WinStar Farm LLC, was coming off a fifth-place finish in the Sunland Park Derby on March 29 and went off at odds of nearly 16-1 in the Coolmore Lexington. With Garrett Gomez aboard, the Florida-bred son of Chapel Royal won by a length over Conservative with favorite Square Eddie a length back in third. Stablemate Masala was fourth.

Last October, Advice had finished ninth behind Square Eddie in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (G1), and he made the first four starts of his career on synthetic surfaces. Pletcher said last Sunday morning that the Coolmore Lexington was selected as the colt’s next race because he had “run well on synthetics before, and the spacing was good from the Sunland Park Derby.” Now the question is whether Advice will journey on to Churchill Downs for a run on dirt in the Kentucky Derby.

“I think they’ve got the Derby in the back of their mind, but they haven’t really made any decisions yet,” Barry said.

Pletcher also won the Coolmore Lexington with Behindatthebar and in 2005 with Coin Silver.


DRESS REHEARSAL IS TOP WEIGHT FOR GREY GOOSE BEWITCH

Dress Rehearsal (IRE), who won the 1½-mile Orchid (G3) at Gulfstream Park on March 22 in her most recent race, is the 122-pound high weight for the 48th running of the Grey Goose Bewitch (G3) on April 23. The $150,000 race is for fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up, going 1½ miles on turf.

Racing for Swettenham Stud, Dress Rehearsal is a 4-year-old daughter of Galileo (IRE) who is trained by Bill Mott. Among her seven rivals in the Grey Goose Bewitch is Communique, who won the race last year. For owner G. Watts Humphrey and trainer Rusty Arnold, Communique is coming off a 10th-place finish in the Hillsborough (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on March 14.

The field for the Grey Goose Bewitch, from the rail out, is as follows: Winter View (J. Leparoux, 118), Russian Rosie (IRE) (J. Velazquez, 118), Favorite Fantasy (T. Farina, 118), Empiress (G. Saez, 118), Caprice (GER) (E. Prado, 118), Absolutely Cindy (C. Lanerie, 118), Communique (G. Gomez, 118) and Dress Rehearsal (IRE) (K. Desormeaux, 122).


PENNA THINKING NEW YORK WITH DIAMONDRELLA

Diamondrella (GB) won Saturday’s Giant’s Causeway over 5½ furlongs on Keeneland’s turf course in her 2009 debut and recorded her fifth consecutive victory. Now, trainer Angel Penna Jr. believes the 5-year-old daughter of Rock of Gibraltar (IRE) is ready to try a mile in the Just a Game Handicap (G1) on June 6 at Belmont Park.

“The distance will be a question mark, but deep down in my heart I think she’ll do it,” said Penna, who trains Diamondrella for Morton Topfer’s Castletop Stable. Diamondrella’s previous wins in her string were at six and seven furlongs.

Diamondrella is one of 14 horses Penna has at Keeneland, marking the largest stable he has ever had at the track. He said the Giant’s Causeway was a good fit for her return.

“When I thought she was going to be ready, I looked around and that was the best race for her,” Penna said. “That’s why we’re here.”

Diamondrella is Penna’s third Keeneland stakes winner, following Perfect Arc, winner of the 1995 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1), and Macaw (IRE), who took the 2005 Fifth Third Elkhorn.


GALLOPING OUT

J. Paul Reddam’s Square Eddie, who ran third as the favorite in Saturday’s Coolmore Lexington (G2) in his first start in three months, came out of the race fine, said Sabas Rivera, assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill. The Smart Strike colt, who won the 2008 Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, walked the shedrow on Sunday morning and would continue to do so for the next several mornings before returning to the track. He is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs on Tuesday.


2009 KEENELAND SPRING MEET LEADERS
(Stats Through Saturday, April 18)

Current Meet Leading Jockeys
Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Purses
Julien Leparoux 74 20 14 10 $1,045,712
Kent Desormeaux 68 13 10 10 949,285
John Velazquez 43 10 4 5 609,813
Garrett Gomez 39 9 7 5 654,278
Rene Douglas 46 6 7 7 290,910
Miguel Mena 63 6 5 12 345,805
Shaun Bridgmohan 41 6 0 3 214,845
Corey Lanerie 39 5 5 1 417,420
Jamie Theriot 42 5 3 5 236,355
Robby Albarado 75 4 14 6 307,851


Current Meet Leading Trainers
Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Purses
George Arnold II 21 6 1 2 $201,775
Bill Mott 32 5 6 6 646,385
Michael Maker 26 5 5 3 171,575
Wesley Ward 14 4 4 1 154,880
Shug McGaughey 15 4 3 5 256,410
Steve Asmussen 17 4 2 2 156,045
Todd Pletcher 20 4 2 1 367,740
Ian Wilkes 15 3 2 2 141,820
Barclay Tagg 11 3 2 2 142,120
Ken McPeek 17 3 1 2 179,186
Jonathan Sheppard 6 3 1 1 387,070


Current Meet Leading Owners
Name Wins
Ken & Sarah Ramsey 4
WinStar Farm LLC (Bill Casner, et al) 4
Augustin Stable (George Strawbridge) 3
Dixiana Stables Inc. (William Shively) 3
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable (Bill & Corrine Heiligbrodt) 3
Phipps Stable (Ogden Mills Phipps, et al) 3
Ashbrook Farm (Glenn S. Bromagen) 2
Chiefswood Stables (Robert & Mark Krembil) 2
Darley Stable (Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum) 2
David A. Ross 2