04/23/2009 11:00PM

Friesan Fire works a mile at Keeneland

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Friesan Fire will have had seven weeks off when he steps into the starting gate for the 2009 Kentucky Derby. So trainer Larry Jones needed to do something a little more serious with the Louisiana Derby winner just two weeks prior to the big event. That serious work came Sunday morning at Keeneland, where Friesan Fire worked a mile with regular rider Gabriel Saez aboard.

Keeneland

Rainy, track fast, 52 degrees

Moderate rain fell sporadically throughout training hours at Keeneland on Sunday, with the Polytrack yielding relatively rapid times all morning long. It was not raining when Friesan Fire entered the racetrack accompanied by Jones on his stable pony at 7 a.m. And Jones made sure his Derby hopeful got a good head start when in a full gallop by the time he released Friesan Fire a couple of hundred yards before reaching the mile pole.

Despite the running start, Friesan Fire readily settled into a relaxed and comfortable stride, cutting out fractions of 13 seconds, 25.72, 37.63, and 50.34 for the opening half-mile. He then gradually picked up the pace through the final four furlongs, coming home in 49.13 under little urging from Saez, completing a mile in 1:39.47 before galloping out 1 1/8 miles in 1:54.44.

Friesan Fire has had problems swapping leads through the stretch in previous works but was on his best behavior Sunday, switching over on cue entering the stretch and remaining on the proper lead the remainder of the way.

"He's had some issues trying to get a little rank and losing his focus during his works and races," explained Jones. "A lot of which comes from simply checking out the surroundings when moving to a new track. So part of the job this morning was to make him focus better.

"The seven weeks between starts is a lot of the reason why he worked a mile today. He needed this to keep his fitness. It's the same formula we followed with Hard Spun. I gave Gabriel a time I thought he needed to hit to get him to Churchill Downs the way we want to get there and he missed it by only two-fifths."

Jones said he was particularly pleased with the way Friesan Fire returned from his work.

"When I picked him up with the pony he wasn't breathing hard at all and he didn't drink a gallon of water when he got back to the barn," said Jones. "This work took nothing out of him."

Jones said he will continue to follow the same pattern he used with Hard Spun by scheduling a five-furlong work for Friesan Fire next Monday morning at Churchill Downs.

Churchill Downs

Rainy, track good, 55 degrees

Two Kentucky Derby prospects were sent through workouts at virtually the same time on a rainy and chilly Sunday morning at Churchill Downs. Papa Clem, winner of the Arkansas Derby just eight days beforehand, basically stretched his legs when going five furlongs in 1:04.60 right after Take the Points completed a half-mile in 47.40 seconds in company.

Longtime track superintendent Butch Lehr opted to have the main racing surface harrowed during the regularly scheduled renovation break, as opposed to having it floated or sealed. Clearly it was a borderline call, as steady rain added plenty of moisture to the track, which Churchill officials rated "good" for the works.

Working shortly after the break at about 8:40 a.m. Eastern, Take the Points, with exercise rider Horacio DePaz up, breezed to the inside of his Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate named Schramsberg, an unraced 3-year-old colt by Storm Cat out of Serena's Song.

The two raced alongside each other down the stretch, with Take the Points finishing on slightly better terms before galloping out to the seven-furlong pole in much stronger fashion, getting five furlongs in 1:00.60 while opening up about five lengths on his workmate.

As Take the Points was galloping out, Papa Clem already was well into his work. Ridden by Miguel Mena, a countryman and close friend of the colt's regular jockey, Rafael Bejarano, Papa Clem broke off approaching the five-furlong pole and proceeded in fractions of 12.60 and 38.60 before finishing in 1:04.60. The six-furlong gallop-out time was 1:19.

Trainer Gary Stute, who traveled from Southern California to Louisville on Saturday, said he "just wanted something easy" for Papa Clem and that a more serious work would come prior to the Derby.

- Marty McGee

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