Racing News

On Fire Baby smokes Golden Rod rivals

  • On Fire Baby (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

Anita Cauley's homebred On Fire Baby crushed her rivals in Saturday's Grade 2, $169,350 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs, winning off by 6 1/4 lengths, and became only the seventh filly to sweep Churchill Downs' fall stakes for two-year-old fillies with the gate-to-wire decision.

The Gary Hartlage-trained filly captured the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes on the opening weekend of the fall meet.

With regular rider Joe Johnson up, On Fire Baby broke fastest from the gate and never looked back in the Golden Rod, clipping off fractions of :24 3/5, :50, 1:14 4/5 and 1:39 2/5 before stopping the teletimer in 1:45 4/5 for 1 1/16 miles over a fast track.

"After the past performances for the race came out, I started looking them over," Johnson said. "I studied them last night and came in this morning and said, 'Dog (Gary Hartlage), I can't read this (Daily) Racing Form.' And he asked why and I said, 'I can't see the speed in this race.' And he said, 'What a coincidence because neither can I.' So the plan was to break and go on with her. When we broke, no one was really gunning for it (the lead), so I took advantage of it and when I called on her to run, she responded. She was very professional today."

On Fire Baby led by a half-length after a half-mile and extended her advantage at every pole the rest of the way..

On October 30, On Fire Baby scored her first stakes triumph in the Pocahontas at one mile. Others who completed the Pocahontas-Golden Rod double are Weekend Surprise (1982), Flippers (1983), At the Half (1993), French Park (2005), Pure Clan (2006) and Sassy Image (2009).

Saturday's victory was worth $99,747 and increased On Fire Baby's earnings to $227,329 with a record of 3-0-0 in four starts.

"You saw today how good she is and I think she's got plenty left in her," Hartlage said. "When she got away with that kind of a half (mile), I didn't think she would get beat if she was the horse I thought she was and she did her thing. They let us walk like a dog and she's just that good. I've trained a couple of Grade 2 winners, but she's the best one I've ever had. In my opinion, she's one of the top three two-year-old fillies in the country."

On Fire Baby is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Smoke Glacken and is the third stakes winner from her dam, the Gilded Time mare Ornate, who was a stakes winner herself. Her first was High Heels, queen of the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes and runner-up in such events as the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap, Grade 2 Chilukki Stakes and Grade 3 Gardenia Handicap, in addition to thirds in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Golden Rod. Ornate's next foal was stakes scorer and Grade 3-placed French Kiss.

Other high-profile family members include Grade 1-winning millionaires Paddy O'Prado, Olympio and Pyro, Grade 1 hero Cuvee, and current Grade 3 winner Tapizar.

She returned $7.40, $4.40 and $3.40 as the slight 5-2 favorite in the field of 10 two-year-old fillies. Goldrush Gal, ridden by Manny Cruz, closed late to finish second at 29-1. Back Spin, at 25-1 with Jon Court aboard, was another three-quarters of a length back in third. Golden History, Customer Base, Glinda the Good, Karlovy Vary, Jamraa, Spring Eclipse and Spirited Miss completed the order of finish. Annie Russell was a late scratch.

Hartlage plans to send On Fire Baby to Oaklawn Park where she'll be prepared for lucrative stakes races this winter.

"We're nominated to the Kentucky Oaks now and we'll also nominate her to the Kentucky Derby (Triple Crown)," Hartlage said. "I'm telling you, she is that good."

The two Golden Rod winners that went on to win the Kentucky Oaks are Silverbulletday (1999) and Rachel Alexandra (2009).