Anita Cauley’s On Fire Baby rolled through another fast workout the morning of March 3 at Oaklawn as the 3-year-old daughter of Smoke Glacken prepares for the March 11 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III).
The dual graded stakes-winner went five furlongs in 1:00 2/5, which was the second-fastest of 42 workers at the distance. Her unofficial gallop-out through six furlongs was 1:12 and change, according to trainer Gary Hartlage.
“It went just like it was planned,” said Hartlage shortly after the breeze under jockey Joe Johnson. “She just went nice and easy and Joe just sat still on her. She pricked her ears and did her business and went in just about :12 every lick so we couldn’t ask for anything better.”
On Fire Baby exits a third-place finish against males in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn in January, and has been firing bullet or near-bullet drills ahead of her latest test. With wins in the Pocahontas (gr. II) and Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) last fall at Churchill Downs, Hartlage is very confident facing fillies in the Honeybee.
“Anything other than first-place and I’d probably be disappointed,” he said. “I think she’s that good.”
The veteran trainer said the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) or Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) is the ultimate goal for On Fire Baby and the Honeybee fits into that plan perfectly.
“The break was to give her a little breather,” said Hartlage. “We wanted to get the race in her and then give her some time in between to this one. It all leads up to May to either the Oaks or the Derby depending on where Anita wants to go, and this race fits the schedule. The Honeybee will be there, and then the next one after that would be a last stop before the Oaks or wherever we decide to go.”
Also at Oaklawn March 3, trainer Michael Lauer instructed jockey Luis Quinonez to work his Southwest Stakes (gr. III) runner-up, Scatman, five furlongs between 1:01 and 1:02, and the veteran rider delivered with an easy breeze in 1:01 3/5.
“It was perfect, just what I wanted,” said Lauer, who now gearing up the son of Scat Daddy for a start in the March 17 Rebel Stakes (gr. II).
Scatman turned heads when he ended his juvenile season with a 3 1/4-length maiden victory at Keeneland and was equally impressive when making his 3-year-old debut Jan. 29 at Oaklawn, winning by a similar margin. Both those races were at six furlongs, but he showed the ability to go two turns when he reluctantly gave way to Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint (gr. I) winner Secret Circle in the Southwest after setting the pace, finishing just a half-length back in second.
“I was expecting him to run well in the Southwest,” said Lauer. “Now, he has to go a sixteenth (of a mile) farther and I just don’t know. I think he can. I lot will depend on what kind of pace we get in the Rebel.”
Quinonez, also aboard in the Southwest, will retain the mount in the Rebel.
Shortleaf Stable’s Atigun also prepared for the Rebel when he fired an eye-catching workout, covering five furlongs in 1:01.
Under jockey Terry Thompson, the son of Istan showed no signs that a recently injured hoof was slowing him down during the workout. He started off working in company, but proved too quick and finished a few lengths in front of his would-be partner.
“The other horse was supposed to set the pace, but it didn’t work out,” said Phillip Bauer, assistant to trainer Kenny McPeek. “It’s a good thing Terry just went on with it. The whole thing ended up looking effortless. He wasn’t blowing at all, and the foot is cold. That’s the important thing.”
Atigun has been fighting a problem with a quarter-crack in his hoof that took a painful turn two weeks ago just before the Southwest Stakes (gr. III), forcing him to miss that one-mile contest. McPeek’s team applied a patch and they have regrouped with the Rebel in mind.
“It was a nice maintenance work knowing there will be something more serious next week to get ready for the Rebel,” said Thompson. “They got the crack patched up nicely and he’s traveling great and the time seemed just right for what they wanted today.”