01/14/2012 3:18PM

Oaklawn: On Fire Baby challenges males in Smarty Jones

Barbara D. Livingston
On Fire Baby, a two-time Grade 2 winner against fillies, will test colts and geldings in Monday's $100,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – On Fire Baby will spice up the first stakes in Oakawn Park’s series for 3-year-olds on Monday when she takes on males in the $100,000 Smarty Jones. The one-mile race drew a competitive group of 12 that includes Optimizer, the third-place finisher in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity; Laurie’s Rocket, fourth in the Grade 1 Hopeful; Jake Mo, fifth in the $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint; and Reckless Jerry, the runner-up in the $300,000 Springboard Mile at Remington Park.

But it is On Fire Baby who will be the most accomplished horse in the starting gate as a two-time Grade 2 winner this past fall at Churchill Downs. She took the Pocahontas by three-quarters of a length on Oct. 30, then romped by more than six lengths in the Golden Rod in her last start Nov. 26.

“She’s sitting on super-ready,” said Gary Hartlage, who trains On Fire Baby for Anita Cauley. “She’s shown me things that other horses haven’t shown. I know it’s against the boys and that’s going to be a little bit challenging, probably, but I think she belongs.”

On Fire Baby, a large, gray filly by Smoke Glacken, will break from post 10 under Joe Johnson. She has shown versatility in her races, and could get a tracking trip Monday.

“That’s the good thing about her,” Hartlage said. “If there’s no speed, she’ll take it. Or she can lay third or fourth or she can lay last. So far, every race she’s gotten better to control. She used to work real fast, at first, and now she sits still and she comes charging at the end.”

Reckless Jerry raced with the pace in the Springboard Mile on Dec. 10 and finished 1 1/4 lengths behind Ted’s Folly, who was winning his sixth straight race. One start prior, Reckless Jerry accounted for a first-level allowance by more than four lengths at Remington.

“He deserves a chance at these kind of horses,” said Kenny Smith, who trains Reckless Jerry for a partnership that includes country artist Toby Keith. “I think its going to be a tough race, but the last race was a tough race. And he gutted it out pretty good.

“The day he won the allowance race he was in all tons of trouble and he finally got up through a hole and I mean, he just ran away from the horses,” Smith said. “In the Springboard Mile, I thought he was laying a little close for himself. He really didn’t have the push at the very end like he did the time before, but still, he gutted it out and outran [Pee H Dee] for second.

“He’s been training well. We’ve been working on him, trying to slow him down a little bit, so, hopefully, it will work.”

Jake Mo will be getting back up on a mile oval after racing on a six-furlong track last out when sixth in the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot.

“I don’t think he liked the tight turns,” said trainer Allen Milligan. “I worked him seven-eighths here and he handled it awesome, galloped out strong. He’s been training super.”

◗ Oaklawn is giving away ball caps while supplies last Monday.