Anita Cauley’s 3-year-old filly On Fire Baby, winner of two grade II stakes at the 2011 Churchill Downs fall meet, is poised to challenge males in the $100,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16 at Oaklawn Park.
The Hot Springs, Ark., racetrack begins its meet Jan. 13 with expected record purses.
On Fire Baby, a Kentucky homebred by Smoke Glacken out of the Gilded Time mare Ornate, won the Pocahontas Stakes Oct. 30 and the Golden Rod Stakes Nov. 26 at the Kentucky track for trainer Gary Hartlage, who winters at Oaklawn. The filly worked five furlongs in 1:02 1/5 Jan. 10 with regular rider Joe Johnson aboard.
“She’s so ready,” Hartlage said. “She just looks so good and comes home so easily. Joe says she dropped about a foot when he shook the reins at her. She really got down on her belly, leveled off, and dug in for this work.”
Hartlage said On Fire Baby galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 2/5 and seven furlongs in 1:28.
After the Golden Rod, Hartlage said On Fire Baby is the best horse he has ever trained. He said he would nominate her to the 2012 Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (both gr. I).
On Fire Baby has won three of four starts and is perfect on dirt. Her only loss came in the Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) on Polytrack at Keeneland in October.
The Smarty Jones, for 3-year-olds at one mile, is the first in a series of stakes at Oaklawn leading up to the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I) April 14. It’s on the final day of a four-day opening weekend.
The Jan. 13 opening-day feature is the $75,000 Fifth Season Stakes for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles. The $50,000 Dixie Belle for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs is scheduled for Jan. 14.
Oaklawn will race primarily on a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule. The meet concludes April 14.