03/13/2009 11:00PM

Friesan Fire makes it look easy

Louis Hodges Jr.
Friesan Fire scores an authoritative win in Saturday's Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, stamping himself a major Kentucky Derby contender.

NEW ORLEANS - Number two packs a hell of a punch, too.

There has been the perception that Friesan Fire is the understudy to Old Fashioned in trainer Larry Jones's barn, but, in truth, the only reason they haven't faced one another is that there's no need to until the Kentucky Derby. While Old Fashioned was the more precocious of the two, Friesan Fire has developed in an assured, steady fashion this winter, and on Saturday at Fair Grounds, he ran the best race of his career, turning what appeared to be a wide-open Louisiana Derby into a tour de force.

Friesan Fire ($6.40) ran away to a 7 1/4-length victory in the Grade 2, $600,000 Louisiana Derby, giving him a sweep of Fair Grounds's major stakes races for 3-year-olds. He was good in the Lecomte on Jan. 10, better in the Risen Star on Feb. 7, and sensational in the Louisiana Derby.

"It was so easy," said Gabriel Saez, who is 3 for 3 on Friesan Fire. "He's going to be good for the Kentucky Derby."

Friesan Fire, breaking from the outside post in a field of nine, stalked the early pace set by Papa Clem, who posted fractions of 24.12 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 48.75 seconds for a half-mile, and 1:13.34 for the first six furlongs.

As the field came around the final turn, Friesan Fire effortlessly moved up to challenge Papa Clem, and when Saez turned him loose, the race was over.

"I could see Gabe had a snug hold on him," said Cindy Jones, the wife and assistant trainer to her husband.

Friesan Fire completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.46 on a track that had turned to slop following showers that fell throughout most of the day, sometimes heavily. Friesan Fire had finished third in his only previous race on an off track, in the Belmont Futurity last September, in only his second career start.

"He came into the race great," Cindy Jones said. "He trains in the mud, and it seems like it doesn't bother him."

Friesan Fire, by A.P. Indy, has now won 4 of 7 starts. He is co-owned by Tom Ludt's Vinery Stables and the Fox Hill Farms of Richard Porter. Porter owns all of Old Fashioned.

Papa Clem, making his first start outside of California and on a dirt surface, just held on for second by a head over Terrain.

"We just got outrun. No excuse," said Gary Stute, the trainer of Papa Clem.

Giant Oak, last in the nine-horse field early, closed belatedly to finish fourth after racing wide the whole way, including getting fanned five paths wide into the stretch.

Soul Warrior was fifth and was followed, in order, by Flying Pegasus, Uno Mas, Patena, and Free Country.