Fireball Baby left Horseshoe Indianapolis last fall on a winning note in the $150,000 Lady Fog Horn. The multiple stakes winning Indiana sired mare was thought to be moving into retirement, but after consideration this winter by owners Tammy and Richard Rigney, she is back in action. And what a return it was.
Fireball Baby and Marcelino Pedroza Jr. renewed their connection with a win in the 22nd running of the $100,000 Hoosier Heartland Stakes, her first start in nearly 11 months.
Starting from post seven, Pedroza Jr. was patient out of the gate, getting away in mid pack as Anna’s Tribute and Orlando Mojica moved out for the lead on the inside tracked closely by Hungarian Princess and Sammy Bermudez on the outside of Queen Charmaine and Alex Achard on the inside.
Fireball Baby found the spot right behind Hungarian Princess in the early stages of the race and heading into the final turn, they were able to dip to the inside to save ground before Pedroza Jr. pulled Fireball Baby back out behind Hungarian Princess for the stretch drive.
In the stretch, Hungarian Princess took the lead by a small margin over Anna’s Tribute, but the filly fought back. The two were locked into a heated stretch duel and it appeared they were racing for the win. In the final strides, Fireball Baby found the gear that has brought her across the wire for so many wins before. She split between Anna’s Tribute and Hungarian Princess to score the win by a neck.
Hungarian Princess finished second over Anna’s Tribute in the four-horse photo as Pretty Assets and Manny Esquivel closed in late on the outside in the photo finish. The time of the one and one-sixteenth mile stakes race was 1:45.72.
Fireball Baby paid $6.40 for her return to the track. She has been conditioned her entire career by trainer Philip Bauer, who also handled the training duties for her sire, Noble’s Promise, before he was retired to stud duty in Indiana. Unfortunately, his time in the stallion ranks was cut short when he succumbed to sickness, making his limited crop even more special for the Rigneys.
“She’s been so special to our family and our daughter had plans to use her as a show horse,” said Tammy Rigney. “But she wants to run, so we brought her back. Our daughter will be moving up a class in dressage next year, so the timing probably won’t be right for her to become a show horse. We have plans now to breed her when she’s done racing.”
Fireball Baby proved that timeline may be pushed back again following her performance in the Hoosier Heartland. Layoffs have never been her friend in the past, but the six-year-old chestnut mare proved that wasn’t an obstacle this time.
“She has run out of her conditions,” said Bauer. “We tried a couple of spots on the turf, but we couldn’t get lucky with the rain. We knew this race was coming up, so we tried to crank her down the last two weeks, but it boils down to her. She’s just a seasoned veteran racehorse now that knows what to do.”