Fire Key earns first stakes win in Autumn Days

fire key the autumn days 2OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Fire Key capped a busy and successful 4-year-old campaign Sunday at Aqueduct, getting a perfect trip under Paco Lopez and rolling to a 2 1/2-length victory in the $100,000 Autumn Days Stakes for fillies and mares, the final turf stakes of the year on this circuit.

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Sitting fourth along the inside early on, Fire Key was swung into the 3 path turning for home, and she caught and passed Ultra Brat inside the final furlong to get her first stakes victory and trainer Pat Kelly’s first stakes win in six years.

“It’s been a while,” said Kelly, whose most recent stakes win had come with Spa City Fever in the Alex M. Robb on Dec. 31, 2011.

Two starts back, Fire Key finished second in the Sensible Lady Turf Stakes at Laurel Park. Earlier this month, Fire Key was beaten a nose by First of Spring in a swiftly run allowance race.

On Sunday, Fire Key was second to no one as she sat patiently along the inside while Mo’ne Davis and Ultra Brat dueled through fractions of 23.13 seconds for the quarter and 46.50 for the half-mile. Lopez had no issue swinging Fire Key into the clear turning for home, and the filly did the rest.

Stormy Victoria, the 5-2 favorite, prevailed in a four-horse battle for second by a neck over First of Spring, who was third by a neck over Ultra Brat, who was fourth by a neck over Always Thinking.

Lopez was subbing for Rajiv Maragh, who was at Del Mar on Sunday. Maragh had ridden Fire Key in four of her last five starts and had gotten the filly to settle in her races.

“Maragh had been getting her to relax in her last few starts and finish, and today it worked out even better. She really finished,” Kelly said. “We thought there’d be speed from the outside and she could sit in there and take advantage from that post position and that she’d finish good, and she did.”

Fire Key, a daughter of Friesan Fire owned and bred by Backwards Stable, covered the six furlongs in 1:09.23 and returned $12.

Kelly said Fire Key will have a break and return in the spring, looking for more stakes success.

“We’ll have her back next spring and have some fun, I think,” Kelly said.