Anita Cauley’s homebred On Fire Baby, winner by three-quarters of length in the $150,000-added Pocahontas (Grade II) in the Stars of Tomorrow I program on the opening day of the Fall Meet, is the early favorite to add another graded-stakes win to her growing resumé when she faces 10 rivals in Saturday’s 68th running of Churchill Downs $150,000-added Golden Rod (GII) for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the main track at Churchill Downs.
Named for the official flower of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Golden Rod will be the ninth race on Saturday’s 12-race Stars of Tomorrow II program devoted exclusively to races for 2-year-olds and has a scheduled post time of 4:42 p.m. (all times EST). Post time for Saturday’s first race is 12:40 p.m.
Trained by Churchill Downs veteran Gary Hartlage, On Fire Baby began her career with an impressive four-length victory in a maiden-special weight race at Ellis Park. The gray/roan daughter of Smoke Glacken then finished fifth to eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (GII) winner Stephanie’s Kitten in Keeneland’s Darley Alcibiades (GI), but rebounded to win the Pocahontas.
On Fire Baby is a half-sister to 2007 Fantasy (GII) winner High Heels, who finished third in the 2006 Golden Rod and returned the following spring to run third to eventual Belmont Stakes (GI) winner Rags to Riches in the Kentucky Oaks (GI). She will break from post six under Joe Johnson, and oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed Hartlage’s filly as a narrow 3-1 favorite.
On Fire Baby’s main competition in the Golden Rod could the trio Glen Hill Farm’s Customer Base, Stonestreet Stables LLC’s Glinda the Good, and John C. Oxley’s duo Spirited Miss and Golden History. Each filly possesses experience in stakes races during their brief careers.
Customer Base, a daughter of Lemon Drop Kid trained by Tom Proctor, won her first two starts over synthetic surfaces at Del Mar and Keeneland before she ran 11th from an outside post to Stephanie’s Kitten in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (GII). Jockey Julien Leparoux will be in the saddle for the third consecutive race aboard Customer Base, who is the 7-2 second choice in Battaglia’s morning line and breaks from post eight in her debut on traditional dirt.
The Steve Asmussen-trained Glinda the Good was runner-up to Grace Hall in the Blue Hen at Delaware Park before that rival finished second to Asmussen’s unbeaten My Miss Aurelia in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs. The 2-year-old daughter of Hard Spun ran third to On Fire Baby in the Pocahontas and will break from post 10 in the Golden Rod under Corey Lanerie. Asmussen’s filly is the 5-1 third choice in Battaglia’s morning line odds.
Both Spirited Miss and Golden History launched their careers at Canada’s Woodbine for trainer Mark Casse, who has earned three Sovereign Awards as Canada’s top trainer who earned a training title at Churchill Downs early in this career.
Spirited Miss, a homebred daughter of Sky Mesa, will race on traditional dirt for the first time after running on grass and Polytrack at Woodine in her previous three starts. She won at first asking on grass, then ran fourth on that surface to Northern Passion in the Grade III Natalma – a race in which Stephanie’s Kitten ran third. Spirited Miss narrowly lost on Polytrack last out in Woodbine’s Mazarine, but is the 6-1 fourth choice in the Golden Rod and Javier Castellano rides from gate three.
Golden History is a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and an impressive winner in her racing debut on Polytrack at Woodbine in October. She ran fifth to On Fire Baby in her debut over traditional dirt in the Pocahontas, but finished only three lengths behind the winner. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Golden History, an 8-1 risk who will break from post nine.
Another possible contender is Alex G. Campbell Jr.’s Karlovy Vary, a daughter of Dynaformer who makes her dirt debut after a pair of starts on grass at Keeneland and Saratoga. Robby Albarado will ride the Rusty Arnold trainee who comes off an impressive maiden win at 1 1/16 miles on the Keeneland turf. Karlovy Vary was entered in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, but did not draw into the race from its list of also-eligible horses. She will break from the outside post in the 11-horse Golden Rod field and is listed at 8-1 in Battaglia’s morning line odds.
Arnold also trains Annie Russell, a daughter of Ghostzapper who scored her first victory over Keeneland’s Polytrack course after a pair of solid runs on turf at Arlington Park, including a fourth-place run behind Stephanie’s Kitten in her racing debut. She is listed at 15-1 under Brian Hernandez Jr. for her debut on traditional dirt in the Golden Rod.
The Golden Rod field, from the rail out (with trainer, jockey, morning line odds) is as follows: Back Spin (Jinks Fires, Jon Court, 15-1), Annie Russell (Arnold, Hernandez, 15-1), Spirited Miss (Casse, Castellano, 6-1), Goldrush Girl (Ken McPeek, Manny Cruz, 15-1), Spring Eclipse (David Vance, Edgar Prado, 20-1), On Fire Baby (Hartlage, Johnson, 3-1), Jamraa (Tim Girten, Jesus Castanon, 20-1), Customer Base (Proctor, Leparoux, 7-2), Golden History (Casse, Bridgmohan, 8-1), Glinda the Good (Asmussen, Lanerie, 5-1) and Karlovy Vary (Arnold, Albarado, 8-1).