TOBA May Member of the Month

TOBA May Member of the Month
Photo: Courtesy of Anita Cauley
Anita Cauley

Anita Cauley is living the dream, riding high with her homebred On Fire Baby. The gray mare is a red-hot standout in the older filly and mare division.

Most recently, On Fire Baby won the May 2 La Troienne Stakes (gr. I) on the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) undercard. But the five-year-old has been a model of consistency throughout her career, taking the Pocahontas (gr. II) and Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) at two and the Honeybee (gr. III) at three. Last year, she garnered a victory in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I). That triumph, Cauley said, “still gives me goose bumps to think about because…I hoped to have an allowance horse in the beginning.”

Cauley’s enthusiasm for everything equine began at a young age. It came to fruition when she met her late husband, Barry Ebert, who owned Arabian show horses. Eventually, Ebert and Cauley began attending the Keeneland sales, where they purchased a few fillies. One astute buy was the Gilded Time filly Ornate, an $80,000 purchase at the 1998 Keeneland July Select Yearling sale. Ornate became a stakes winner, but Cauley wanted to sell her after her racing career. “I intended to sell Ornate in foal [to E Dubai] and put a reserve [of $95,000] on her and it was missed by $5,000,” she recalled. “For what she was as a racehorse, that probably was high and I knew that, but I also knew she had a very strong temperament and she was a stall weaver, and I just wanted to make sure that whoever would take her on would have paid enough for her...I was just trying to assure her a good home.”

Thankfully, Ornate did not attain her reserve and went home to Cauley. She admitted, “As it turns out, it was a wonderful thing for me because, yes, she has been the foundation for everything that has happened since then.” The E Dubai foal Ornate was carrying became High Heels, who won the Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) and placed in the 2007 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Although High Heels didn’t win the Run for the Lilies, Cauley loved every minute of the journey there. “It brings kind of tears to my eyes and goose bumps. It means a lot to me and I told everybody this. It means a lot to me that it was shared with both [longtime jockey] Joe Johnson and [trainer] Gary Hartlage.”

Ornate later foaled On Fire Baby to the cover of Smoke Glacken. Cauley chose the sprint champion for Ornate because of their physical compatibility. “I loved how much bone he had. He’s substantial,” Cauley said, while the mare “is a good medium [size], but she could have just a little bit more bone.” What Ornate lacked in size, she made up for in her “really strong personality. Even in the pasture, you see her with the other mares and she kind of rules the roost.” On Fire Baby had a similar star-like quality from the get-go. When Cauley first met the filly, “she promptly stopped, turned her head, and waited for me to take a picture.” The charismatic foal continued to be a standout. “She just had this presence about her when she came out and it just continued...every time she changed, from the weanling stage to the yearling stage...it was like, ‘Oh, wow, she looks even better.’”

Keeping it all in the family, On Fire Baby’s half-sister, High Heels, is one of Cauley’s four broodmares. The others are Ornate and two of her other daughters, stakes winner French Kiss, and Lustful, whom Cauley owns with Lee McMillan of Amende Place in Paris, Kentucky. Cauley boards her mares and foals at that farm, but even most of the runners she has at the track besides “Baby” descend from Ornate.

Cauley also gives back to the racing community. She’s a member of the Pink Stable, the board of directors for Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear’s Horses and Hope. That organization works with the horse industry to provide breast cancer awareness and education and early detection opportunities. “I love horses and had an aunt who had breast cancer, so I was just thrilled to be a part of that right from the get-go,” Cauley enthused. She also works with Churchill’s Backside Learning Center, which provides educational experiences for backside workers.

As On Fire Baby is pointing towards the June 14 Fleur de Lis Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill for her next start, Cauley is relishing every moment with the mare. Fans regularly interact with “Baby” on her Facebook page, and sharing the success with her longtime trainer and rider means that much more to her. With her love of the horse and her dedication to the people in the sport, Anita Cauley is “on fire” in 2014.

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