03/24/2009 12:00AM

On Fire finally gets to race

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Not once, not twice, but three times since arriving from Florida, On Fire has been entered, and scratched. His trainer, Barry Abrams, is promising the fourth time will be the charm.

On Fire, formerly trained by Shug McGaughey on the East Coast, was privately purchased by Abrams a little less than two months ago. In searching for the right spot, Abrams looked both high - as in last Saturday's San Luis Rey Handicap - and low. Thursday at Santa Anita - Eureka! - he found it, a first-level allowance in which On Fire should be one of the prime contenders.

But Thursday's featured seventh race, at 1 1/8 miles, will mark a new chapter in On Fire's career, and not just that it will be his first start for Abrams. After making his first 11 starts on turf, On Fire will try a synthetic surface for the first time.

"I want to try him on it," Abrams said. "He's never had a chance to run on it before, but this looks like a reasonable spot."

On Fire, a 5-year-old gelding, has finished second in his last three starts, at distances ranging from a mile to 1 1/8 miles. He drops far back early before rallying. Abrams believes the longer, the better.

"We purchased him to run in long-distance, marathon races," Abrams said. "I think he's got a chance to be a very good horse. He ran with some good horses in Florida. We didn't pay a whole lot of money for him. We bought him to run in high-end claiming races. The Phipps family was willing to sell him because 5-year-old geldings are not really their kind of horse. But when you get something from the Phipps family, it's probably not half-bad."

Abrams is hoping for better luck on Thursday than he had on Sunday, when he lost a pair of photo finishes.

"Those days always even out," he said. "Last year I got put up twice in stakes races on disqualifications."

With very little speed in Thursday's race, Fiery Trippi will be the one to catch in the field of seven. He was second in a similar race on the main track to the highly regarded Elysium Fields on Feb. 19, then was third in a first-level allowance on the turf on March 14.

Saint Paul is making only his second start since returning from a 22-month layoff. He tuned up in a sprint, finishing fourth, and now stretches out. He showed enough promise to finish third in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes in 2007 before going to the sidelines.