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On Fire Baby To Challenge The Boys In The Smarty Jones

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On Fire Baby, and three-year-old daughter of Smoke Glacken and winner of the G2-Pocahontas and G2-Golden Rod at Churchill Downs last fall, will take on eleven colts in Monday's 100,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas (Post Time: 4:33pm Central; TV: TVG). The Smarty Jones is the first two-turn stakes race for three-year-olds of the season at Oaklawn and, even though it is not a graded stakes race, it is can provide a good launching point on the road to the $1 million Arkansas Derby. Below are the entries, post positions and morning line odds for the Smarty Jones.

PP Horse Jockey Trainer ML
1 Laurie's Rocket B. Hernandez, Jr. D. Stewart 8/1
2 Junebugred J. Bravo S. Hobby 5/1
3 Prince Cheval G. Kuntzweiler G. Allen 20/1
4 No Spin C. Hill T. Ice 6/1
5 Fastestwhogetspaid I. Ocampo B. Williamson 15/1
6 Optimizer T. Thompson D. Lukas 5/2
7 Copus J. Felix B. Rainwater 30/1
8 Jake Mo M. Berry A. Milligan 10/1
9 Hard Nosed R. Santana, Jr. R. Moquett 30/1
10 On Fire Baby J. Johnson G. Hartlage 7/2
11 King Coral G. Saez A. Milligan 20/1
12 Reckless Jerry S. Laviolette K. Smith 10/1

On Fire Baby began her career with a four length victory against Maiden Special Weight company at Ellis Park last August. She struggled to a fifth place finish in her next start in the G1-Alcibiades at Keeneland but rebounded to post back-to-back scores in Grade 2 events at Churchill Downs. She's proved that she can get a route of ground and her running style is versatile enough to put her on the lead or a few lengths back in the early stages of the race. It's always challenging for a filly to jump up and take on the colts, but the talent of On Fire Baby, combined with a relatively soft field in the Smarty Jones, will make her awfully tough to beat on Monday afternoon.

The morning line favorite for the Smarty Jones is the D. Wayne Lukas trainee Optimizer, a son of English Channel out of an A.P. Indy mare (Indy Pick). Predictably, Optimizer began his career on the lawn and scored a first out win at Saratoga in early August. After finishing second to State of Play in the G2-With Anticipation, Optimizer tried running on the Keeneland Polytrack, finishing third in the G1-Boarders Futurity.

Optimizer's last two starts have both come on the dirt at Churchill Downs where he finished eighth and fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the G2-Kentucky Jockey Club, respectively. Those two dirt performances cast some serious doubt as to whether this colt is better suited for dirt, as opposed to turf. He didn't have a very good trip in the Kentucky Jockey Club, so there's reason to believe that he'll improve in this race if he gets a cleaner path. At the same time, given his breeding and early success, there's a good possibility that this colt prefers the grass. At 5/2 on the morning line, his odds are a little iffy for a colt with surface questions.

The contenders get a little thin after the top two but there's an intriguing long shot in the form of the Hawthorne shipper Fastestwhogetspaid. While he's a son of sprinter Henny Hughes he displayed an ability to get two turns in his last effort against OC $50k/N1X company. He's severely outclassed by the top two favorites but he's shown enough to suggest that he might be able to put up a decent performance at big odds. Even if he's not a prime win candidate he looks like a price that could get into the tri or the super.