On Fire Baby at Churchill Downs

On Fire Baby at Churchill Downs

Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs

Kentucky Oaks Draws Overflow Field of 15

Favored Grace Hall draws post 2, while co-second choice On Fire Baby has the rail.

Grace Hall, winner of the March 31 Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II), will break from post 2 as the 5-2 morning line favorite for the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.

Fifteen 3-year-old fillies were entered for the nine-furlong Oaks. Oaks Lilly did not draw into the main body of the field.

The participants of the field are determined by graded earnings. If a horse should scratch before 9 a.m. May 4, then Oaks Lily will draw into the race. 

Anita Cauley’s homebred filly On Fire Baby, winner of the Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) in her last start and the 4-1 co-second choice, will break from the rail of the May 4 race.

Broadway's Alibi, also listed at 4-1, will break from post 6.

Grace Hall’s favored status is merited by the fact she has never finished worse than second in her six starts, with additional victories in the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga and the Blue Hen Stakes at Delaware Park at 2.

The daughter of Empire Maker  also turned in respectable runner-up efforts in the 2011 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) in her sole start at Churchill and the Feb. 25 Davona Dale (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park. She enters the Oaks with earnings of $809,000.

Trainer Tony Dutrow seemed unfazed by his filly’s post position.

“We drew post 2,” he said simply. “I don’t have much other comment than that. It is what it is. I’m just happy to be in the race…our filly is feeling great and we can’t wait to get out there and go. We’re excited and ready.”

A $95,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase, Grace Hall is owned by Michael Dubb, Mike Caruso’s Bethlehem Stables, and Stuart Grant’s The Elkstone Group. She was bred in Kentucky by Darley.

“Almost everyone wants to be in the middle with a 14-horse field, but I think she’s got enough tactical speed that it won’t be a problem,” said Caruso by phone May 1. “(Jockey) Javier (Castellano) knows this horse; he knows what to do.”

Grace Hall turned in her most recent work at Palm Meadows Training Center April 29 when she covered four furlongs over a sloppy track in :52.10.

Cauley’s husband, Jim, said he had talked to trainer Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage prior to the draw and he indicated it didn’t matter which post position On Fire Baby drew.

“I think (drawing the rail) is fine,” said Cauley. “If it were a 20-horse field, maybe it would be a problem, but I think it’s great.”

On Fire Baby has an obvious affinity for the Churchill track, over which she won last year’s Pocahontas (gr. II) and Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II). The daughter of Smoke Glacken—Ornate, by Gilded Time has won four times and placed third once in six lifetime starts, for earnings of $312,329.

In her most recent work at Churchill April 27, the Kentucky-bred filly, who will be ridden by regular jockey Joe Johnson in the Oaks, covered seven furlongs in 1:27 flat.

The connections of Amie's Dini, who is listed at 10-1 on the morning line, were optimistic about their filly drawing the 13 post in spite of its negative connotations.

“We’re in the gate, that’s all that matters,” said trainer Ron Moquette of the daughter of Bandini. “It’s not a bad post position. There have been some really good horses win in the Derby from way outside. We’re out of the way and we’re very tactical—we can do what we need to do and I don’t think it’s a disadvantage at all.”

Amie's Dini turned in her final work for the Oaks when she covered five furlongs in 1:05 2/5 at Churchill April 28. Her usual rider Jon Court will be aboard for the Run for the Lilies.

Amie’s Dini is owned by Lou Sutterfield and Mike Walker, who bought her for just $3,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale from Paramount Sales, agent. The two owners are based in Oklahoma, where Walker owns a car lot.

The filly, who is named after Walker’s granddaughter, has raced nearly all her starts at Oaklawn Park, where she won the Feb. 11 Martha Washington Stakes and finished second in the March 10 Honeybee (gr. III) and April 11 Fantasy (gr. II). Bred in Kentucky by Dell Ridge Farm, Amie’s Dini has an overall record of 3-3-1 from seven starts, for earnings of $183,896.

$1 million Kentucky Oaks (gr. I, Race 11, 5:45 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. On Fire Baby (KY), J M Johnson, 121, G G Hartlage, 4-1
2. Grace Hall (KY), J Castellano, 121, A W Dutrow, 5-2
3. Summer Applause (KY), G K Gomez, 121, W B Calhoun, 15-1
4. Eden's Moon (FL), M Garcia, 121, B Baffert, 12-1
5. Hard Not to Like (ON), R Albarado, 121, G Cox, 20-1
6. Broadway's Alibi (KY), J R Velazquez, 121, T A Pletcher, 4-1
7. Sacristy (KY), M E Smith, 121, W M Catalano, 50-1
8. Jemima's Pearl (KY), J Talamo, 121, B Baffert, 10-1
9. Believe You Can (KY), R Napravnik, 121, J L Jones, 10-1
10. And Why Not (KY), J R Leparoux, 121, M R Matz, 15-1
11. Karlovy Vary (KY), J Graham, 121, G R Arnold II, 20-1
12. Colonial Empress (VA), C S Nakatani, 121, D W Lukas, 50-1
13. Amie's Dini (KY), J K Court, 121, R Moquett, 10-1
14. Yara (FL), J L Castanon, 121, J Garoffalo, 30-1
Oaks Lily (KY), R Bejarano, 121, T A Hills, 50-1