Race of the Week 2017

On Fire Baby: Derby or Oaks?

On Fire Baby Honeybee
Photo: Coady Photography/Oaklawn
On Fire Baby captured the third graded stakes win of her career in the Honeybee Stakes (gr.3) at Oaklawn Park on March 10th and proved once again that she is one of the leading sophomore runners in the country. After her stellar juvenile campaign, which included a score in the Pocahontas Stakes (gr.2) and a runaway victory in the Golden Rod Stakes (gr.2), On Fire Baby tackled males in the Smarty Jones Stakes on January 16th at Oaklawn Park. She finished a close and driving third after racing wide on both turns. Brought back to the company of fillies in the Honeybee Stakes by trainer Gary Hartlage this past Saturday, On Fire Baby returned to the winners circle with a convincing win.
A filly that always breaks well from the gate, On Fire Baby was away in the good order at the start of the Honeybee Stakes while Martha Washington Stakes winner, Amie’s Dini, broke best of all and led the field into the first turn. Strung about five wide entering the turn, On Fire Baby and jockey Joe Johnson moved up to be a close third behind Amie’s Dini and Rocket Twentyone as the field raced into the backstretch. Down the backstretch On Fire Baby moved up on the outside to run on even terms with Rocket Twentyone, less than a length off the flank of Amie’s Dini. With the far turn looming, On Fire Baby began to edge close to the lead, moving past Rocket Twentyone and cutting into the short lead of Amie’s Dini. Entering the turn Amie’s Dini quickened the tempo and On Fire Baby quickly matched speed, racing just a neck back in second as they sprinted two lengths clear of the field. Around the turn those two dueled for the lead, heads bobbing up and down, both fillies gathering for the final run down the homestretch. As they raced off the turn the whip came out on Amie’s Dini and both fillies surged fourth lengths clear of the field. Down the homestretch On Fire Baby pushed her game rival to the very edge, took the worst she could dish out and then took command as Amie’s Dini held onto a commanding second place advantage. The final 1/16 of a mile was all about On Fire Baby as she drew clear and won by two lengths, well in hand and looking strong.
On Fire Baby has proven to be consistent and tough as nails in her six race career thus far, winning all but one of her four juvenile starts when she ran 5th to Stephanie’s Kitten in the Grade 1 Alcibiades on Polytrack and running third to males in a performance that has trainer Hartlage convinced the Smoke Glacken filly was not quite right. Now she has come back to her winning ways and looks very strong going forward. Hartlage and owner/breeders Anita Cauley are not afraid to test their talented filly against male competition as proven in the Smarty Jones, and now it seems they are considering even deeper waters with a possible start in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 14th. The other option is the $300,000 Fantasy Stakes on April 11th against fillies. After her Golden Rod Stakes romp last year Hartlage claimed this was the very best horse he has even trained. She is undefeated in both her Churchill Downs starts, and considering her spring goals are either the Kentucky Oaks or Kentucky Derby this year, that bodes very well for her. She has the rugged, heavy build and grinding running style that should serve her well as she stretches out to longer distances. Both the Kentucky Oaks and Derby are creeping up on racing fans. With just under eight weeks to go until the start of the classics contenders and pretenders will be cropping up on every side each and every weekend. Until we know what the goal is for On Fire Baby it’s hard to say where she fits on either list of Derby and Oaks contenders, but for theory sake let’s say she is heading for the Kentucky Oaks. If that is the case, she easily ranks in the top three contenders right now.
On another note Amie's Dini ran turned in a stellar performance in her runner-up Honeybee effort and will definitely be one to keep on the Kentucky Oaks radar. She has only compiled four lifetime starts, winning two and finishing second twice. On February 11th she upset the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park, defeating heavily favorted Now I Know. This filly tries hard, has plenty of talent and has shown the ability to win on the lead or rating comfortably behind.


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Older Comments about On Fire Baby: Derby or Oaks?...

Sure, put her in the Derby along with Broadway's Alibi, Agave Kiss, My Miss Aurelia and special guest shipper Maybe. I woudn't be suprised to see one of them win it.
I hope she does go in the Derby. A horse I don't like that will take $ and make my horses odds better!
I'll try to be nice here, but it won't be easy. To those that continue to discount Amie's Dini's victory over Now I Know....I get it. Your horse got hurt in a big race. It's something that I had to deal with just last year, as Archarcharch was injured at the start of last year's Kentucky Derby. Do I talk about how the 14 or 15 horses that finished in front of him, and how they didn't really deserve their placings because my horse was injured? No...get over. I'm sorry for ANY horse to get hurt, period. Now, about the Apple Blossom, no horses go as fast on the lead in the 1 1/16 mile distance as Amie's Dini did, and are able to hold off a great filly such as On Fire Baby. Should they meet again, watch to see which horse pounces down the stretch....
Haha Matt, yeah another gray! I think she should run in the Oaks. Not sure she's at the caliber of a Z or Rach...
If Hartlage and Cauley decide to run their filly in the Derby and not the Oaks I wouldn't give her a great chance to win. She's consistent and durable but not as talented as most of the top tier colts this year. She ran well in the Smarty Jones but that was a relatively weak field in my eyes. She'll have to move up a few levels to be Derby material. Oaks sounds like the most legitimate option for her right now.
This years Derby looks tough, she should run in the Oaks.
Another gray horse that is making some noise!
If she can post 3 - three figure Beyers going into the Derby like Eight Belles, then take your shot, otherwise she won't hit the board.
I don't understand how all this talk about running her in the Derby started...she's a nice filly, but I don't see anything out of the ordinary about her. Am I missing something?
It is obvious her connections have big plans for their filly...she is talented, and she seems to be getting better and better. If -- big if -- they plan to run her in the KY Derby instead of the Oaks, wouldn't it make more sense to "prep" her in the Fantasy where she probably can leave something in the tank for down the road? Certainly would not question whatever decision is made for her, but, it seems to me she would have to run the race of her life in the Arkansas Derby, setting her up for a "bounce" in the KY Derby. Just my thought, but, what do I know?
She has ZERO chance to beat Union Rags or Hansen. Oaks without question.
It's been KyOaksRunner since early last year, but I've been writing so sporadically since the Fall when school started that I was mostly commenting from Facebook with my full name. :) Nice to see someone's keeping tabs on me!
Brian A., I didn't know that you changed your username , again. I'll look for the "runner" part from now on. :)
Hey Ashley! (correct me if I'm wrong) :) I pretty much said the same thing to Mary about the Martha Washington. I'm not sure she still wouldn't have won if Now I Know hadn't been injured because she was definitely gaining momentum and moving forward in the stretch. You're right, On Fire Baby is better than Amie's Dini right now, but I'd love to see them match up again down the road if Amie's Dini keeps improving. Two really nice fillies.
I agree Mary Z. in relation to Amie's Dini and Now I Know being injured in the Martha Washington, but I also think her excellent performance against On Fire Baby in the Honeybee validated her win in the Martha Washington. I like that she is still only 5 races into her career with a lot of room and time left to mature. Thanks for the compliment :)
Mary Z., I was going to make the very same point about the Martha Washington. I know yall will think I'm biased since everyone knows how much I love Now I Know, but Amie's Dini never would have won the MW if Now I Know hadn't been injured. With that saying, Amie's Dini is a very game runner, but she doesn't hold a candle to On Fire Baby. OFB will dominate no matter where she runs. I'm very excited about this filly!
So good to see a blog from Brian Appleton! Very informative and you made a case for On Fire Baby as a top contender, but I would say for the Oaks. Even then, talk about having to outrun a pedigree. How far would one have to go back to find other than sprinters or milers in her family tree? About Amie's Dini and the Marsha Washington, the fact that Now I Know came out of the race injured cannot be overlooked as a factor in that victory.

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