2012 Kentucky Oaks Profile: On Fire Baby Lighting the Way to the Oaks
Race fans that paid attention to Churchill Downs races last fall saw an impressive gray filly win two graded stakes races at the fall meet. But the filly has proved to be much more than just a fall wonder in her short career.
The 2009 Smoke Glacken filly is out of the stakes winning Gilded Time mare Ornate. The mare produced stakes winners High Heels and French Kiss in her first two tries as a broodmare so it wasn’t much of a surprise that On Fire Baby decided to join her sisters as a stakes winner.
The filly's first start gave a glimpse of what was to come as she won her maiden by four and a half lengths going five and a half furlongs over the dirt at Ellis Park in August. The filly was put into a stakes two months later during the Keeneland meet, but On Fire Baby’s first attempt at a stakes didn’t go well.
On Fire Baby's first experience was in the G1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes over the all weather surface at Keeneland. The filly faded to fifth of 13 after leading by a head for most of the race but that wouldn’t deter her connections.
In her next start, a little over three weeks after her midpack finish, On Fire Baby showed that the Churchill track was more to her liking. Unlike the Keeneland race and her maiden, On Fire Baby sat midpack and made a move late to beat And Why Not by 3/4 lengths.
But it would be her start at the end of November that would really fuel her connection’s Kentucky Derby hopes. In an effort that looked much like the run she had made at Keeneland, On Fire Baby went straight to the front. However, unlike Keeneland, the filly got more breathing room, leading by up to a length at different calls in the race. In the end, the filly wouldn’t let up and won by an easy 6 1/4 lengths.
On Fire Baby's true test on the road to the Derby would come in her first start against the boys in the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park in January.
In a gutsy effort, the filly finished third behind Junebugred and Reckless Jerry by about 1 1/4 lengths after once again sitting midpack during the race. At the time, the race didn’t look to deter her connections from the Derby but they put her back with females in the G3 Honeybee Stakes two months later.
Once again, the filly showed that she didn’t need the lead, sitting anywhere from second to fourth during the race while also going four wide into the first turn. On Fire Baby would have a fight on her hands in the stretch, dueling with Amie’s DIni to get the lead but would finally wear the other filly down to win by two lengths.
After the race, On Fire Baby became one of the clear favorites of the G1 Kentucky Oaks, but with enough earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby, it wasn’t clear where she would go. The news that she may go to the Arkansas Derby or Fantasy Stakes fueled the speculation even more.
But on April 5, the Daily Racing Form’s Mary Rampellini tweeted that On Fire Baby would skip both races in favor of training for the Oaks.
With $286,729 in graded stakes earnings, the filly sits in the No. 3 spot on the Oaks earnings list. With her track record of 2-0 on the Churchill Downs surface at both a mile and 1 1/16 miles, the latter being her 6 1/4 length victory, it looks as though On Fire Baby will be one of the top picks on the first Friday in May. She is expected to ship to Churchill Downs on April 16, giving her a chance to train over the track again for the two weeks leading up to the race.
On Fire Baby's career has been hot from the start but the Kentucky Oaks may be her hardest test yet. With route experience over the Oaks track, the filly may have the added experience that it takes to get the victory on May 4.
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