Fire Key unlocks competitive Autumn Stakes

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

By Sarah Mace

Second generation Backwards Stable homebred Fire Key (Fresian Fire) posted her first stakes victory in convincing fashion at Aqueduct Sunday in the inaugural running of the co-featured $125,000 Autumn Stakes for filly and mare sprinters on the outer turf course.

Fire Key has had regular dates with the starter throughout her 4-year-old campaign in 2017, with 11 prior starts this year, and the results have been consistently good: three wins, four seconds and third. In her only prior stakes try, the Sensible Lady Turf Dash Stakes at Laurel Park on September 16, Fire Key finished second, and last out she fell just a nose short of victory in an open allowance at Aqueduct. She also came into the Autumn stakes in sharp form Beyer-wise, with figures of 90-92-90 in her three most recent starts.

Breaking from post two as the 5-1 third choice in the salty field of 12, Fire Key settled into the pocket in third/fourth for a ground-saving trip, while Mo’ne Davis (a half-sister to Barbaro, Lentenor and Nicanor), then Ultra Brat set the pace through brisk splits of 23.13 and 46.50.

Moving out for the drive at the head of the stretch, Fire Key agilely altered course inside the final furlong for completely clear running.

Passing new leader Ultra Brat, who was passed, in turn, by 5-2 favorite Stormy Victoria and close second choice First of Spring in the shadow of the wire, Fire Key opened up to a convincing 2 1/2-length victory. The next five finishers were separated by only 1 1/4 lengths, with Stormy Victoria collecting second, a neck ahead of First of Spring in third, who finished a neck ahead of fourth-place finisher Ultra Brat. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Jockey Paco Lopez said, “That was the first time I’ve been on her and I’m really happy for the opportunity. I know she is a quality filly.”

Added Lopez, “It looks easy when you’re on the best horse in the race. The trainer said, ‘Paco, do whatever you want. If you can make the lead easy, then make the lead. The filly doesn’t have to have the lead, she can put you behind horses and she’ll be perfect.’ Today, I saw a couple horses trying to rush [to the lead], so I moved down [to the rail] a little bit. Then I waited for the eighth pole and took her out of the hole and when I asked her to run, she gave me everything she had. She’s a very nice filly.”

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

Winning trainer Pat Kelly said, “She’s really come on all year long. We just got nipped on Opening Day [November 3] on the turf. Paco rode a great race. She really finished today.

“We thought there’d be speed from the outside and we [planned] to sit in there and take advantage of the post position and hope she’d finished good, and she did.”

Kelly plans to give Fire Key the winter off in preparation for her 5-year-old campaign. “We’ll have her back next spring and have some fun, I think.” To date Fire Key sports a record of five wins, six seconds and one third from 17 starts and has earned $344,185.

Out of Backwards stable homebred mare U R Key and foaled at Sun Valley Farm in Ballston Spa, Fire Key is a third generation New York-bred thorugh the female family with Virginia roots. Her third dam, the Virginia-bred Shukey (Key to the Mint), produced second dam Sugar Key (Missionary Ridge GB), bred in New York by Jill Rich and Edward Michaels II.

U R Key (Albert the Great), Sugar Key’s daughter, was unraced but has already produced two winners from two foals to start For Backwards. Her first foal Masterkey (Will He Shine) is a Finger Lakes-based six-figure earner and, currently, she has a yearling filly by Emcee. Not bred in 2016, U R Key went to Micromanage this year.

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