05/01/2013 11:52AM

Churchill Downs: Believe You Can, On Fire Baby meet again in La Troienne


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – At this time last year, Believe You Can and On Fire Baby were among the leaders of the 3-year-old filly division. Their seasons cut short due to infirmities, Believe You Can and On Fire Baby have come back to form as 4-year-olds, combining to win three stakes in as many tries.

On Friday, a year after Believe You Can and On Fire Baby finished first and fourth in the Kentucky Oaks, they meet again and appear to be the ones to beat in the Grade 2, $300,000 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs. The La Troienne, run at 1 1/16 miles, drew a field of seven and will go as race 6 on a 12-race card that is highlighted by the Kentucky Oaks.

After winning the 2012 Oaks, Believe You Can went to New York, where she finished a distant third behind Zo Impressive in the Grade 1 Mother Goose in June. She was preparing for the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga when trainer Larry Jones decided to pull the plug after not being happy with the filly’s training. Later, she was diagnosed with a foot injury.

“The inside of her hoof had grown down like a hangnail and went up and started growing out right at the coronet band,” Jones said. “They had to pluck that off. It was aggravating her.”

Believe You Can returned at Fair Grounds this winter with dominant wins in the Tiffany Lass Stakes and New Orleans Ladies.

“I don’t think we could be any happier the way we were able to start her year off,” Jones said. “She’s had two races under her belt; neither one had to be a gut-wrencher. She went out and kind of got the juices flowing.”

Though Jones said he has seen a more relaxed Believe You Can this year in her training, she looks like the primary speed in the La Troienne, breaking from post 4 under Rosie Napravnik.

On Fire Baby ended her 3-year-old season with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Acorn last May. Shortly thereafter, trainer Gary Hartlage sent the filly for a bone scan, which revealed some “hot spots,” and a recommendation was made to take her out of training for 90 days.

When Hartlage attempted to bring her back early last fall, On Fire Baby strained a muscle and was given three more months off.

On Fire Baby returned to the races with a front-running victory in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn last month at odds of 12-1. Hartlage said that while On Fire Baby went gate to wire in the Apple Blossom under Joe Johnson, he’s perfectly content to have her sit off Believe You Can on Friday.

“I’d say Joe can put her wherever he wants to put her,” Hartlage said. “If they go too fast, he can back off of them. If not, he can take it.”

On Fire Baby breaks from post 5.

Among the others with a chance to upset are More Chocolate and Authenticity.

More Chocolate, trained by John Sadler, won the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita before finishing a clear second to Joyful Victory in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita.

Authenticity, trained by Todd Pletcher, is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Rampart. She has been the workmate of Kentucky Derby contender Verrazano over the last two weeks.

Imposing Grace, Class Included, and Draw It complete the field.