11/25/2009 12:00AM

Friesan Fire looking like he's ready to go


Up at Churchill Downs, 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra is back on the track, training again for the Steve Asmussen stable. But down at Fair Grounds, the Asmussen barn has 3-year-old colt Friesan Fire dressed up and ready to roll - somewhere, sometime, and presumably in the not-too-distant future.

On Monday, Friesan Fire worked six furlongs in 1:12.60 seconds, as fast as many six-furlong races are run at Fair Grounds. It was Friesan Fire's sixth published work since he resumed breezing this fall in New Orleans, and his second straight drill at three-quarters of a mile.

"He was the favorite for the Kentucky Derby for a reason, is what I'd say about him," Asmussen said, when asked his opinion of Friesan Fire's quality. "He's got a tremendous amount of talent. He's a very, very big horse, and he does that [work] easier than the other ones do."

Asked if Friesan Fire had worked in company Monday, Asmussen said no. "I gave him company one week, and his company didn't like it," he said.

Asmussen reiterated that Friesan Fire's main winter goal is the Donn Handicap on Feb. 6 at Gulfstream Park. How Friesan Fire gets to that spot remains uncertain. The first dirt-route stakes race on the Fair Grounds schedule is the $60,000 Tenacious Handicap on Dec. 20.

Meanwhile, Asmussen is relentlessly closing in on his own record for wins in a season. Asmussen first set the mark in 2004, when his 555 victories broke Jack Van Berg's longstanding single-season wins mark. Asmussen won "just" 488 races in 2007, but smashed the 2004 mark with a 622-win 2008. And as of Wednesday afternoon, Asmussen's far-reaching stable already had amassed 598 victories this year. That is an average of about 1.81 wins per day, and if Asmussen were to sustain that pace, he would finish 2009 with 663 victories. A late-season slowdown seems inevitable, however, since Asmussen runs strings at Woodbine, Remington, and Churchill Downs, all of which are hosting meets that come to an end in the next few weeks. But by then, his stable may already have set a record.

Guillot back home

Trainer Eric Guillot dabbled in California racing since the late 1980s before opening up a full California string starting in 2006. But Guillot, a native Louisianan, is centralizing his operation closer to home, now.

Guillot has 35 stalls at Fair Grounds, and has started the meet there strong, winning with 4of his first 9 starters. He has more horses housed at the Evangeline training center near Lafayette, and only four Guillot horses remain in California. One of them is Mi Sueno, the Grade 1-winning 2-year-old filly who suffered a condylar fracture in her right foreleg during a workout in late September, and is recovering from surgery in a stall at Santa Anita. Guillot said Mi Sueno had screws inserted in the injured leg, and would not race again.

"She's retired," he said.

And for now, Guillot said he has retired from California racing.

"I'm done, I'm back home now," Guillot said. "I'm gonna go back out there when they put dirt back in. Do I want to be there? Yes. Do I need to be there? Yes. Will I go back before they put dirt back in? No."

Instead, Guillot has focused on the Fair Grounds meet. He said he sent 15 horses to Fair Grounds from California, and 20 more came from his string at Louisiana Downs. It's a far different setup from Guillot's fractured 2008-2009 Fair Grounds meet, when his horses started off with trainer Wes Hawley before being abruptly moved off the racetrack and onto the Evangeline training center.

"This year we got there early, and we're ready to run," Guillot said. "We're loaded for bear, and we should be strong."

Malawi returning to races

It will be interesting to see if Malawi can run as well in a six-furlong dirt sprint as she did in a 4 1/2-furlong Polytrack race. Malawi, making her career debut on April 10 at Keeneland, displayed strong early speed and won an early-season Keeneland baby race by four lengths in the only start of her career. In Friday's co-featured eighth race, an entry-level dirt-sprint allowance, Malawi takes on seven other 2-year-old fillies.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Malawi has posted six timed workouts over the Fair Grounds main track. And though she made the lead in her Keeneland race, do not be surprised to see Malawi taken slightly off what could be a hot, contested pace on Friday.

* Race 9, an entry-level one-mile turf allowance, could come down to Blue Smoke Bess and Show 'Em All. Show 'Em All won her maiden over the Fair Grounds turf course just 20 days ago.