Xtra Heat falls short by neck in Sprint, 1st loss at 6 furlongs

Squirtle Squirt ends Frankel's drought with half-length triumph

Breeders' Cup notebook

Horse Racing

October 28, 2001|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ELMONT, N.Y. - Xtra Heat, the undersized 3-year-old filly from Maryland, came within a neck of winning the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint yesterday at Belmont Park.

She exploded from the gate in the six-furlong stakes and led nearly every step. No one could catch her - not last year's winner Kona Gold, not Caller One or Swept Overboard or Delaware Township or El Corredor - no one except the pesky Squirtle Squirt, who prevailed by a half-length.

"She broke like a bullet," said John Salzman, who trains her at Laurel Park. "Those boys said, `Where the hell she'd go?'

"I thought she was going to hang on. She dug in two or three times. She ran her eyeballs out. She's a running fool."

This was Xtra Heat's first race against males. She earned $200,000 to swell her bankroll to $1,241,150 - not bad for a $5,000 purchase by her owners: Salzman, Harry Deitchman and Kenneth Taylor, Marylanders all. Xtra Heat has won 17 of 21 races. This was her first defeat at six furlongs after 10 victories.

Squirtle Squirt provided her trainer, Bobby Frankel, his first Breeders' Cup win after 38 losses. A 3-year-old son of Marquetry, Squirtle Squirt prepared for the Sprint in seven-furlong races. He needed that rare combination of stamina and speed to defeat Xtra Heat.

"This was my fourth choice to win a Breeders' Cup race," said Frankel, who gave Flute, You and Aptitude better chances. "You can never figure it out. I thought the inside was going to bury him. I thought the speed was going to bury him. But it just worked out well."

Kona Gold, the 7-year-old gelding who won the Sprint last year, finished a non-threatening seventh.

"Either he didn't like the track, or he's just worn out," said his trainer, Bruce Headley.

Pride of Ireland

Ireland-based Johannesburg stormed past America's best 2-year-olds to capture the $1 million Juvenile by 1 1/4 lengths. Officer, the 3-5 favorite, led briefly but faded to fifth.

Officer and Came Home, the second choice at 5-1, dueled early down Belmont's wind-whipped backstretch. When Bob Baffert, Officer's trainer, saw that, he cringed.

"He just got it on with Came Home," Baffert said. "That's what I didn't want to see happen."

Baffert said that Officer's inside post position, No. 2, in the 12-horse field forced his colt's jockey, Victor Espinoza, to hustle Officer out of the gate to avoid congestion along the rail.

"That's why I was afraid of the post," Baffert said. "That cooked him."

Espinoza said that Officer, who had won his first five races with ease, did not pack his usual punch.

"Turning for home, I had no horse," Espinoza said. "Normally with him, he just opens up. In my heart of hearts, I am confident that he's the best horse in the world. Unfortunately, you can't win them all."

Aidan O'Brien, the Irish trainer of Johannesburg, said that he would consider bringing the undefeated son of Hennessy back for the Kentucky Derby. Johannesburg has won seven races. His first six came on turf in Europe.

"He's been a champion every step of the way all year," said Michael Kinane, Johannesburg's jockey. "We always thought he was made for the dirt, and he proved it today."

Jump Start, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained 2-year-old, suffered a broken front left ankle. Veterinarian C. Wayne McIlwraith said that the son of A.P. Indy would undergo surgery today to repair the break with screws. The injury is perhaps career-threatening but not life-threatening, McIlwraith said.

Scary start

Breeders' Cup day began ugly when Exogenous, one of the favorites in the Distaff, reared stepping onto the track and flipped over backward. She smacked her head, and her left hind leg became entangled in an iron fence.

After several harrowing minutes, she was freed, sedated, hauled onto the equine ambulance and transported back to her stall in the trainer Scotty Schulhofer's barn. Observers braced for the worst, but McIlwraith soon reported: "She's up. She's fine. She's doing really well."

After a delay of nearly 15 minutes, the Distaff got under way, and Unbridled Elaine stole the show from Flute, the favorite, and Spain, last year's winner. A daughter of Unbridled's Song, Unbridled Elaine roared from 10th to overtake Spain at the wire.

Flute finished seventh, prompting her jockey, Jerry Bailey, to say: "She's too green. She'll take some work."

$2.7 million donated

The Breeders' Cup races raised $2.7 million for the New York Heroes Fund, which benefits families of those killed in the World Trade Center attacks. Several jockeys and owners donated a portion of their earnings, but the Dubai-based Godolphin Racing pledged all its earnings. That amounted to $2.5 million of the $2.7 million.

Godolphin ran one-two in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies with Tempera and Imperial Gesture, and it won the $2 million Turf with Fantastic Light.

Fantastic Light reaffirmed his status as one of the best horses in the world with a three-quarter length victory over the Ireland-based Milan. Fantastic Light, a 5-year-old son of Rahy, has won major stakes around the world and earned $7.4 million.

From 11th to winner

California-based Val Royal charged from 11th to win the $1 million Mile by 1 3/4 lengths over Forbidden Apple. The winner is owned by David Milch, writer and executive producer of the TV series Hill Street Blues, and writer, executive producer and co-creator of NYPD Blue.

France-based Banks Hill delivered the most dominant performance of the Breeders' Cup with a 5 1/2 -length victory in the $1 million Filly and Mare Turf.

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