On Fire Baby taking on the boys in Smarty Jones Stakes

Smarty Jones Bobblehead

Oaklawn Park’s series for three-year-olds on the 2012 Kentucky Derby trail gets underway on Monday, January 16th with the running of the Smarty Jones Stakes. The Smarty Jones Stakes is named for the 2004 champion three-year-old colt who won the Arkansas Derby along with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

On Fire Baby, a large gray filly, will be taking on the boys.  The colts are going to have defeat this speedy filly, who closed out her 2 year old juvenile campaign with back-to-back graded stakes wins at Churchill Downs. Only  three fillies have won the Kentucky Derby: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980 and Winning Colors in 1988.

“She’s sitting on super-ready,” said Gary ‘Red Dog’ Hartlage, who trains On Fire Baby for Anita Cauley. “She’s shown me things that other horses haven’t shown. I know it’s against the boys and that’s going to be a little bit challenging, probably, but I think she belongs.”

“That’s the good thing about her,” Hartlage said. “If there’s no speed, she’ll take it. Or she can lay third or fourth or she can lay last. So far, every race she’s gotten better to control. She used to work real fast, at first, and now she sits still and she comes charging at the end.”

On Fire Baby worked Tuesday morning in 1:02 1/5 over five-furlongs at Oaklawn Park, with regular jockey Joe Johnson in the saddle.  “Joe says she dropped about a foot when he shook the reins at her,” said Hartlage. “She really got down on her belly, leveled off and dug in for this work.”

Last Fall at Churchill Downs, trainer Gary Hartlage revealed that he might have more in mind for his talented gray filly than taking the obvious route for a filly to the Kentucky Oaks.  He was also considering On Fire Baby for the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

But Kentucky Derby fever isn’t the reason that On Fire Baby is kicking off her
three-year-old campaign in the Smarty Jones. Hartlage indicated that he
preferred the two-turn distance, rather than a shorter race.

This is the field in post position order with jockeys for the Smarty Jones Stakes – Laurie’s Rocket, Brian Hernandez Jr.; Junebugred, Joe Bravo; Prince Cheval, Greta Kutzweiler; No Spin, Channing Hill; Fastestwhogetspaid, Israel Ocampo; Optimizer, Terry Thompson; Copus, Julio Felix; Jake Mo, Cliff Berry; Hard Nosed, Richardo Santana Jr.; On Fire Baby, Joe Johnson; King Corral, Gabriel Saez and Reckless Jerry, Shane Laviolette.

Will we soon be hearing the chant of ‘Go Baby Go’?