Trainer Gary Hartlage admitted figuring out which stakes race to try next with Anita Cauley's homebred filly On Fire Baby is a complicated process, but he loves how easy the three-time graded stakes winner makes his training techniques look.
The Smoke Glacken filly's latest workout came March 27 at Oaklawn Park when she covered seven furlongs in 1:27 4/5. Following that drill, her connections are pondering the April 11 Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) against fillies or the April 14 Arkansas Derby (gr. I).
"Everything is going according to plan and if you don't like how she worked (yesterday), you don't like apple pie," said Hartlage in a release. "It was just like we drew it on the board."
Under regular jockey Joe Johnson, On Fire Baby was asked to test her stamina a bit more than in her previous workouts. The goal was to be ready to go 1 1/16 miles in the Fantasy in a likely rematch of her Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) win over Amie's Dini, or go 1 1/8 miles against males in the Arkansas Derby with a potential subsequent berth in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
"I didn't know Joe could get her to go that slow, but he did it," said Hartlage. “We wanted her to relax and finish strong, and she did just that. Now we are ready for both of them. I might not even have to breeze her again before her next race. I wouldn't have to change a thing to get there now."
On Fire Baby came out of her 2-year-old campaign with wins in both the Pocahontas (gr. II) and the Golden Rod (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. She got her first chance against males in the Smarty Jones Stakes in January, where she was a close third behind Junebugred and Reckless Jerry. The Kentucky-bred filly, who won the Honeybee by two lengths, boasts an overall record of 4-0-1 from six starts, for earnings of $312,329.
Hartlage says he has left the next-race decision up to Cauley and they don't expect to commit right away. The timing of when the Fantasy and Arkansas Derby are drawn could allow for her to be entered in both contests.