01/10/2009 12:00AM

Jones doubles up at Fair Grounds

Louis Hodges Jr.
Friesan Fire comes back from an allowance defeat to win Saturday's Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, earning a start in the Risen Star there on Feb. 7.

NEW ORLEANS - Nobody was keeping up with the Joneses on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Larry Jones-trained Friesan Fire rebounded from an odds-on allowance defeat here to win the Grade 3, $100,000 Lecomte Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths, and a race earlier, Just Jenda, trained by Jones and owned by his wife, Cindi, captured the $75,000 Tiffany Lass.

Both horses showed vast improvement over their most recent starts, and by moving forward in his second race with blinkers, Friesan Fire earned a spot in the next Fair Grounds 3-year-old stakes race, the Feb. 7 Risen Star. With Friesan Fire penciled into that spot, Old Fashioned, Jones's top 3-year-old prospect, will head to Oaklawn Park for the Southwest Stakes.

Friesan Fire showed promise at 2, winning his career debut at Delaware, then finishing third in the Futurity at Belmont and fourth in the Nashua at Aqueduct. Jones felt that in both stakes, Friesan Fire lacked finishing focus, something that blinkers might cure. But racing with the new equipment here Dec. 18, Friesan Fire got embroiled in a heated speed duel and was run down late. Saturday, however, Jones got the result he wanted, with Friesan Fire settling nicely behind surprising early leader Au Moon, who was pressed mildly by the longshot Citizen.

"We knew we had him just too sharp last time," said Jones. "This was just what we wanted."

Stretchout sprinter Big Push looked like the speed of the Lecomte, but it was Au Moon who left running, setting moderate splits of 24.08 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, and 48.67 for the half.

"I couldn't believe it," trainer David Carroll said of Au Moon's early position.

Friesan Fire, well ridden by Gabriel Saez, fell into a perfect tracking spot in third. Saez moved outside with a little more than a quarter-mile to run and got the jump on Patena, who had raced in mid-pack down the backstretch. Patena rallied gamely in a promising performance, but could not catch Friesan Fire. The final quarter-mile was fast, 24.14 seconds, and Friesan Fire was timed in a good 1:37.67. Favored because of a late betting surge, Friesan Fire paid $6.80 to win. Au Moon held encouragingly for third. The second choice, Indygo Mountain, broke slowly, never reached contention, and finished sixth.

Just Jenda had performed even worse last out than Friesan Fire had, running fifth in the Delta Princess Stakes after easily winning her first two starts. But Jones believes Just Jenda was uncomfortable on the Delta Downs track surface, and he wasn't surprised she rebounded Saturday.

"I took her down there the day before," Jones said. "To tell you the truth, I didn't even like the way she galloped over the track."

Racing for the first time with Lasix, Just Jenda was last early in a compact field of five, as previously unbeaten Selva cut out fractions of 23.67 seconds for the first quarter-mile, and 47.52 for the half. Just Jenda moved wide under Terry Thompson to reach contention around the far turn and edged away from Selva to win by 1 3/4 lengths. She was timed in 1:38.15 for one mile and paid $7 to win. Favored Four Gifts, the Delta Princess winner, ran evenly through the short stretch and finished third.