Updated on 04/20/2012 4:42PM

Kentucky Oaks: On Fire Baby breezes

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
On Fire Baby, with Joe Johnson aboard, works out on Friday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – On Fire Baby had her next-to-last workout for the May 4 Kentucky Oaks when she breezed seven furlongs in 1:26.80 early Friday over the same Churchill Downs racetrack where last fall she swept the Pocahontas and Golden Rod Stakes.

Trainer Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage said he was very pleased with the way On Fire Baby went through her paces, as the gray filly went in splits of 25 seocnds, 49.80, and 1:14.40 before finishing strongly and galloping out a mile in 1:40.20 with regular rider Joe Johnson aboard.

“I like to send my horses seven-eighths so they don’t go too fast,” said Hartlage, who has made Churchill his primary base for more than 30 years. “Also, we’re getting ready to run her 1 1/8 miles.”

Hartlage said On Fire Baby would work back within seven days or so in her final prep for the $1 million Oaks, for which she figures as one of the top wagering choices. On Fire Baby, bred and owned by Anita Cauley, was an easy winner of the March 10 Honeybee Stakes at her Oaklawn Park winter base.

[KENTUCKY DERBY WORKOUTS: Latest updates, Mike Welsch's video reports]

Also Friday over the fast main track at Churchill, Summer Applause went five furlongs in a bullet 59.60 seconds with jockey Miguel Mena up. The move was the fastest of 24 works at the distance.

Trained by Bret Calhoun, who hit the 2,000-win milestone Thursday evening at Lone Star Park, Summer Applause made substantial progress over the winter at Fair Grounds, winning the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra before being narrowly defeated in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks by Believe You Can.

Meanwhile, up the road at Keeneland, Karlovy Vary had her first work since upsetting the April 7 Ashland Stakes, breezing a half-mile over the Polytrack surface in 48.60 seconds, while And Why Not, a longshot candidate trained by Michael Matz, breezed the same distance in :48.80.

And from Canada, Hard Not to Like, the Ashland runner-up, breezed an easy half-mile in 52.40 seconds over the training track at Woodbine for trainer Gail Cox.

At Palm Meadows, trainers Tony Dutrow and Todd Pletcher were almost giddy when asked to talk about the works turned in by their Oaks hopefuls over a fast track on Friday.

Dutrow watched in delight as his Grace Hall, the potential Oaks favorite, went five furlongs in 1:01.32 while completing her final eighth in 12 seconds, according to track clocker Bryan Walls. Grace Hall is coming off an easy victory in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks.

“You know that song ‘I’m Walking on Sunshine?,’ ” said Dutrow. “That’s how I’m feeling right now about this filly. I haven’t been down here since she won the [Gulfstream Park] Oaks, but today I’m seeing everything I’ve been told about her. I couldn’t dream she’d be doing any better than this. I’ve been in this business all my life, and I know things can be one way one minute and another way the next. But right now I couldn’t ask for her to be doing any better. She looks unbelievable.”

Dutrow said Grace Hall would have one more work, likely next Saturday, before the Oaks. She is scheduled to ship along with trainer Todd Pletcher’s Churchill Downs-bound contingent and Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy on May 1.

“In a perfect world, she’ll have one more of these next Saturday and then we’re off to Kentucky,” said Dutrow.

Pletcher sent out In Lingerie and the once-beaten Broadway’s Alibi to work a half-mile in :48.98 in company prior to the renovation break on Friday. Pletcher has already confirmed In Lingerie as a starter for the Oaks while still wrestling with whether to also run Broadway’s Alibi or keep her at one turn in the Acorn.

“Both fillies went super,” said Pletcher. “I really don’t know what to do with Broadway’s Alibi. She’s really making it hard to keep her out of the Oaks, she’s been training so well. She’s really tempting me.”

One trainer hoping Pletcher will run Broadway’s Alibi in the Oaks is Tom Albertrani, who has already made the decision to bypass the Oaks in lieu of the Acorn with Charlotte Weber’s Zo Impressive. The homebred suffered her first setback in three starts when second best behind Grace Hall in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.

“Mrs. Weber decided she’d rather bypass the Oaks and go to the Acorn,” Albertrani said at Palm Meadows on Friday. “She’s run three races in a short time and this is a good opportunity to give her a little breather, freshen her up and point for races in New York like the Acorn and Mother Goose

The 14-horse limit appears likely to be invoked for the 138th Oaks, with the other prospects being Amie’s Dini, Believe You Can, Killer Graces, Mamma Kimbo, and Yara.

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch