BORN: 01/05/47, Louisville, Kentucky
RESIDES: Shively, Kentucky
FAMILY: Daughter Jennifer
Among the most knowledgeable horsemen on the Arkansas and Kentucky circuit, trainer Gary Hartlage is beginning another Oaklawn season. The trainer, better known as “Red Dog” to his peers, has long been popular with the local racing crowd as has his main rider Joe Johnson.
Although he no longer keeps the numbers that helped propelled him to a tie for leading trainer honors with Kenny Smith in 1997, fans know there are usually a few gems in his barn. The year of his title, it was Krigeorj's Gold’s victory the $100,000 Fifth Season Breeders' Cup that sealedthe honor in the next to last race on closing day. That horse is just one of many stakes runners Hartlage has uncorked at Oaklawn.
In recent years, it has been half-sisters French Kiss, High Heels, and On Fire Baby that brought Hartlage and long-time owner Anita Cauley to the winner’s circle after stakes victories. High Heels won the 2007 Fantasy Stakes en route to a third-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks, while French Kiss won the 2009 Pippin Stakes. However, it is On Fire Baby, who has become the standout among the three. In the fall of 2011, she won the Pocahontas and the Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs before kicking off 2012 with a third against colts in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn. That was followed by an impressive victory in the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes, but it was 2013 when she really made her mark at Oaklawn. She returned from a lengthy layoff to win the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap and is currently being prepped for a defense of that title.
Among his other favorite horses was Judge TC, winner of the 1994 Rebel Stakes, who went on to win 11 races and over $800,000. Other Oaklawn stakes winners include Nice Serve, Savings and Sea Trek.