Hoping for `Heat' at Eclipse dinner

Filly could be winner in two categories

February 18, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Xtra Heat served notice with a rousing victory Saturday in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap that she is still a star at 4. The final word on her 3-year-old season will be delivered tonight at the 31st Eclipse awards banquet in Miami Beach, Fla.

The Laurel-based filly is a finalist for a coveted Eclipse statuette in two categories: 3-year-old filly and sprinter. A sprinter has never won the Eclipse for 3-year-old filly. The other finalists are Exogenous and Flute.

The other finalists for sprinter are Squirtle Squirt, who defeated Xtra Heat in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, and Delaware Township, who defeated her in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.

Xtra Heat's owners - John Salzman (her trainer), Harry Deitchman and Kenneth Taylor - plan to attend the Eclipse dinner, a black-tie gala at the Fontainebleau Hilton Resort. They bought Xtra Heat for $5,000 when she was 2. She has won 19 of 24 races and earned $1,443,305.

"I think she has a good chance to win 3-year-old filly and a fair chance to win sprinter," Taylor said. "I'd like her to win, but it doesn't really matter to me one way or the other. She's the best filly anyone could have, no matter what."

Maryland will be represented at the Eclipse awards in three other categories. Scott Lake, who manages a stable of horses at Pimlico, is a finalist for Trainer of the Year. He became the second trainer to win more than 400 races in one year. The other finalists are Bob Baffert and Bobby Frankel.

Maryland riders Ramon Dominguez and Jeremy Rose are finalists for top jockey and top apprentice jockey, respectively.

Winners in 16 categories will be announced tonight, including Horse of the Year. The finalists are Johannesburg, the undefeated 2-year-old who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile; Point Given, the brilliant chestnut who won five Grade I stakes (Santa Anita Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell and Travers); and Tiznow, the gutsy California-bred who out-gamed Sakhee in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the year's most dramatic race.

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