06/11/2013 1:07PM

Churchill Downs: On Fire Baby out of Fleur de Lis

Barbara D. Livingston
On Fire Baby, winner of the Apple Blossom, was under medical observation after spiking a fever of 104.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The top would-be challenger to Eclipse champion Royal Delta in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap was withdrawn from consideration Tuesday morning when trainer Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage reported that On Fire Baby had been transported to a Lexington equine clinic the previous night after spiking a high fever in her stall at Churchill Downs.

“We’re thinking and hoping it’s only a virus,” Hartlage said. The trainer said the filly developed “what we thought was a little case of colic” early Monday, “and we treated her, and she was fine. But then she didn’t go to her feed tub” Monday night.

Hartlage said On Fire Baby was transported to the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute for observation and treatment. The normal body temperature for a Thoroughbred is roughly 100 degrees, and hers was about 104, Hartlage said.

“We’ll just have to see what the doctors say,” he said. “Obviously, it’s bad timing, but these things happen a lot, unfortunately. Hopefully, she’ll be over it real soon.”

On Fire Baby, bred and owned by Anita Cauley, won the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in April and has earned $720,308. The gray 4-year-old filly was expected to be second choice to heavily favored Royal Delta in the $175,000 Fleur de Lis, the top supporting feature on the Stephen Foster Handicap card Saturday night at Churchill.

Entries were to be drawn Wednesday for the Saturday card, and the defection left just two others, Wine Princess and Funny Proposition, as definite opponents for Royal Delta. Churchill’s racing secretary, Ben Huffman, said Tuesday he was confident his staff would find another starter or two to allow the race to fill.

Royal Delta, the 2012 older female champion, will be ridden by Mike Smith in the 1 1/8-mile Fleur de Lis. A 5-year-old mare trained by Bill Mott, she will be making her first start since finishing 10th in the March 30 Dubai World Cup. Last year, Royal Delta won the Fleur de Lis by eight lengths when she returned from a ninth-place finish in the World Cup.

Royal Delta arrived here Sunday following a charter flight from New York. Also making the trip was her Mott stablemate, Ron the Greek, who last year dealt the eventual Horse of the Year, Wise Dan, his only defeat of 2012, getting up in the final jumps of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster to prevail by a head.

Mott arrived in Louisville not long after his stable stars and will be here through the weekend.

“He doesn’t like to get too far away from those good ones,” joked his local assistant, Kenny McCarthy.

A field of six for the Foster was holding firm Tuesday, those being Successful Dan, Fort Larned, Ron the Greek, Take Charge Indy, Golden Ticket, and Pool Play.

First post Saturday night is 6 p.m. Eastern, with the features likely to run in the 10 o’clock hour. The last of 11 races will go at 11:10. Two Grade 3 races for 3-year-olds, the Matt Winn and Regret, also will be on the program.