05/02/2014 1:54PM

On Fire Baby becomes millionaire in La Troienne

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Barbara D. Livingston
On Fire Baby pulls away in the Grade 1 La Troienne. The win was her first since the 2013 Apple Blossom.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When Gary Hartlage looked over the field for Friday’s Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes, he tried to view it as an objective handicapper and not as the trainer of On Fire Baby.

He concluded “she’s supposed to win this race,” he said.

Hartlage and the wagering public who made her the 8-5 favorite were spot on as On Fire Baby stalked the pace-setting Devil’s Cave until upper stretch before taking over and drawing clear en route to a 2 3/4-length victory in the $327,000 La Troienne at Churchill Downs. Molly Morgan rallied for second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Devil’s Cave. Magic Union, Unlimited Budget, and Liberated completed the order of finish.

The win was the sixth from 15 career starts for On Fire Baby, a 5-year-old daughter of Smoke Glacken, and her first since she captured the Grade 1 Apple Blossom on April 12, 2013. The first-place purse of $200,713 pushed On Fire Baby’s career earnings to $1,082,687.

“That means a lot to us,” said Hartlage, who trains On Fire Baby for owner Anita Cauley. “I’ve always thought she was among the top five fillies and mares in the country and hopefully she showed that today.”

The race unfolded pretty much as Hartlage and jockey Joe Johnson thought it would. Breaking from the outside post in the six-horse field, On Fire Baby stalked Devil’s Cave and Javier Castellano through a quarter mile in 24.27, a half-mile in 47.51, and six furlongs in 1:11.52.

Approaching the three-sixteenths pole, On Fire Baby took control and was never seriously threatened in the stretch.

“She broke well,” Johnson said. “We wanted to be in a stalking position. “Her last race,” Johnson said, referring to a second-place finish to Close Hatches in the Apple Blossom, “was a good one. She was second to Close Hatches and we had given her a run for the money that day. She showed today that she is among the best.”

On Fire Baby covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.48 and returned $5.20 as the 8-5 favorite.

The biggest disappointment in the race was Unlimited Budget, who seemed in good position down the backside, but who, according to jockey John Velazquez, got to “spinning her wheels” at the three-eighths pole.

“I could never get her back up underneath me,” he said.