Jimmy Thompson, known to friends as Jimmy T, drove to Laurel Park yesterday morning from his home in Pasadena for one reason: to watch Xtra Heat race in Dubai.
"Nobody wanted her, and she turned into a champion," said Thompson, 40, a construction specialist for Anne Arundel County. "She's got that spirit, a willingness to win all the time."
In the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, the richest sprint race in the world, the Laurel-based Xtra Heat flashed that willing spirit, but it wasn't enough.
After battling stride for stride with California-based Caller One for more than half the six-furlong race, Xtra Heat yielded and finished third.
Caller One, a 5-year-old gelding, then outran Echo Eddie, another 5-year-old gelding from California, to win the Golden Shaheen by a head in 1 minute, 9.91 seconds. In the race entirely on a straightaway, Xtra Heat crossed the wire 3 1/2 lengths behind Echo Eddie.
John Salzman, Xtra Heat's trainer and part owner, commented on Xtra Heat's effort via cell phone minutes after the race.
Asked whether the 4-year-old filly tired, Salzman said: "I don't think she got tired. She just got beat. She can't beat the colts, evidently."
This was Xtra Heat's third time racing against males. She finished second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and third in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.
Of 25 races overall, she has won 19 and earned $1.6 million. Salzman and his Maryland partners, Kenneth Taylor and Harry Deitchman, bought Xtra Heat for $5,000 when she was 2.
"I'm crushed," said Patricia Coscia, 52, a substitute teacher and cafeteria worker from Arbutus who watched Xtra Heat's race at Laurel with her daughter, Lauren. "I wanted her to win so badly. She's just beaten everybody's expectations. She's like the Cinderella horse."
The Golden Shaheen was part of the $15.25 million, seven-race program at Nad Al Sheba race course in Dubai, a port city in the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East. The centerpiece of the world's richest racing day was the world's richest race, the $6 million Dubai World Cup.
Street Cry, a Dubai-based 4-year-old who raced in the United States as a 2-year-old, upset Sakhee, the No. 1-rated horse in the world.
Carrying Jerry Bailey to his fourth World Cup victory in its seven runnings, Street Cry prevailed by 4 1/2 lengths over Saudi Arabia-based long shot Sei Mi. Sakhee finished 4 1/2 lengths behind Sei Mi.
Street Cry's time for the 1 1/4 miles was 2:01.18.
Sakhee, who finished second in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, and Street Cry, who finished third in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, are both part of the expansive stable of the Maktoum family that rules Dubai, built the Nad Al Sheba track and created this event. The Maktoums' primary racing operation is called Godolphin.
"Obviously, we are disappointed for Sakhee as he's such a brilliant horse," Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford was quoted as saying in Sporting Life, an English publication. "He wasn't at his best today for whatever reason.
"But Street Cry we are elated with as we have always believed he had tremendous potential. He's top, top class."
The California-based Western Pride, the only American-based horse in the World Cup, set the early pace, but faded to ninth.
In other Dubai races, the French mare Terre a Terre captured the $2 million Dubai Duty Free, a 1 1/8 -mile race on turf. The Godolphin's Noverre finished second and the New Zealand-based Hoeberg third. Val Royal, the California horse who won the Breeders' Cup Mile, finished fifth.
The English colt Nayef won the $2 million Dubai Sheema Classic, a 1 1/2 -mile race on turf, over New Zealand's Helene Vitality and Germany's Boreal. Grey Memo, trained in California by Warren Stute, captured the $1 million Godolphin Mile. Gary Stevens rode Grey Memo.
In a race with possible Kentucky Derby and Preakness implications, Essence of Dubai solidified his claim as Godolphin's top prospect for the Triple Crown races with a determined victory in the $2 million UAE Derby, the richest Kentucky Derby prep and the only one run at the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles. Essence of Dubai navigated it in 2:02.90.
Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Essence of Dubai defeated California-based Total Impact by a half length. Godolphin's Ibn Al Haitham finished third. Both Godolphin horses competed last year as 2-year-olds in the United States for Godolphin's California trainer, Eoin Harty.
"This horse has a lot of class and proved he stays 1 1/4 miles well," Crisford was quoted as saying in Sporting Life. "The plan is now to go straight to Kentucky."