On Fire Baby trying to keep up with Fleur de Lis


The Sports Network

Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - While three of the leading older females went against each other in last week's Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont Park, On Fire Baby was getting for this Saturday's $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Last Saturday's Phipps featured Close Hatches getting the best of Princess of Sylmar and two-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder.

On Fire Baby, trained by Gary Hartlage, tries to stay relevant in the division by winning the 1 1/8-mile Fleur De Lis versus five other fillies and mares. The 5-year-old gray mare will start from post 4 with the only jockey she's ever known, Joe Johnson.

"She has a personality of her own and she's been a little more laid back this year than I think she has been," Hartlage said. "Joe has to encourage her a little bit more, which is good because it shows she's laidback and we can start stretching her out a bit more. We're going a mile and an eighth here Saturday and her next race might be 1 1/4 miles if she runs well here.

"She'll be stalking right on the lead. If she's anywhere besides there I will be surprised. But that'll be my instructions on her and Joe knows how to ride her. If he can make his own fractions going a mile and an eighth, that'd be really good. Joe really knows this horse well though, he's the only one that has ever ridden her and he's the only one that gallops her in the mornings. We like where we're at."

The 8-5 favorite for the Fleur de Lis, owned by Anita Cauley, posted a 2 3/4- length win on May 2 at Churchill in the La Troienne Stakes. The mare began 2014 with a fourth in Oaklawn Park's Azeri Stakes followed by a second in the Apple Blossom Handicap, both behind Close Hatches.

"She's been with us about three years and the day she came off of the van we knew she was something special," Hartlage said. "As a matter of fact I think she's run in one maiden race, and everything else was stakes, she's never even run an allowance race, but that's how good we thought she was and she's just something special to come to every morning."

On Fire Baby has earned $1,082,687 with six wins from 15 career starts.

Fiftyshadesofhay, trained by Bob Baffert, is the 9-5 second pick and will have Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez riding from post 5. The 4-year-old filly is owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman.

A well traveled filly, Fiftyshadesofhay will be racing at her ninth different track when she starts the 1 1/8-mile Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs. This year she was fourth in the La Canada and sixth in the Santa Margarita Stakes, both at Santa Anita. She's coming off a victory in last month's Ruffian at Belmont Park.

"She's been training super well," Baffert's chief assistant Jimmy Barnes said. "When you look at her past races, she likes coming off the pace. She's not one that likes to be rushed along. In California, it's a little different because of the speedier track, you kind of have to rush her along and I don't think she likes that.

"Watching her last race at Belmont, she broke well and then fell back a bit. Then she dropped down to the rail, saved some ground and swung out wide and finished in the stretch so I'm assuming Johnny (Velazquez) would ride her similarly to that race."

Fiftyshadesofhay has five wins, four seconds and three thirds in 16 career starts for $946,547.

Here is the field for the Fleur de Lis in post position order: Ondine, Shaun Bridgmohan, 6-1; Molly Morgan, Corey Lanerie, 6-1; Frivolous, James Graham, 20-1; On Fire Baby, Joe Johnson, 8-5; Fiftyshadesofhay, John Velazquez, 9-5 and Flashy American, Julien Leparoux, 7-2.

Post time will be approximately 9:05 p.m. ET.

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