12/02/2009 12:00AM

Friesan Fire begins comeback

Barbara D. Livingston
Friesan Fire will be making his first start for trainer Steve Asmussen on Thursday.

Friesan Fire was a tepid 7-2 favorite when he finished 18th in the Kentucky Derby on May 2. His odds will be far lower, and his chance to win far greater, when he returns to the races after a long layoff Thursday at Fair Grounds.

Fair Grounds managed to fill a high-end route allowance race also open to $100,000 claimers, though none of the six entered the race under the claiming option. It's just the sort of spot trainer Steve Asmussen wanted for Friesan Fire's first start since May, as Asmussen points Friesan Fire toward the Feb. 6 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

Friesan Fire's talent is not in doubt, but he has questions to answer in Thursday's mile and 40-yard race. He ran the table in Fair Grounds' three-race series of 3-year-old stakes in 2009, a streak capped by a 7 1/4-length score in the Louisiana Derby. Trainer Larry Jones, since retired, trained Friesan Fire up to the Kentucky Derby despite a seven-week gap between starts, but who knows how that really worked. In the 19-horse Derby scrum, Friesan Fire got stepped on and came back bloodied from grabbing a quarter.

Friesan Fire exited a 10th-place finish in the Preakness with problems more serious than a flesh wound. Diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foreleg and a nondisplaced chip fracture in his right fore, Friesan Fire underwent surgery in late May.

Among the first horses Asmussen sent to Fair Grounds, Friesan Fire showed up on the work tab with a moderate half-mile Oct. 22, and he has hit his marks since, working every six or seven days. Asmussen said he worked Friesan Fire in company once, but after Friesan Fire pummeled his workmate, he has been going solo. That did not stop Friesan Fire from turning in the single most powerful drill so far this Fair Grounds season, a six-furlong move in 1:12.60 on Nov. 23.

Friesan Fire, the 7-5 choice on the morning line, appears to have two main rivals: Good and Lucky and Glamour Guy. Good and Lucky, who turns 7 in a month, has won half his eight starts at Fair Grounds and captured the Louisiana Handicap last meet. Briefly in the barn of trainer Mike Matz this fall, he has returned to regular trainer Josie Carroll and posted a bullet five-furlong work in 59.60 seconds Sunday.

Glamour Guy finished a little more than three lengths behind Good and Lucky in a Monmouth Park stakes in September. He should be on or near the early lead coming out of a fast-paced one-turn mile at Churchill Downs.