Xtra Heat withstands extra weight

Filly gives 12 to 17 pounds, still cruises to Laurel win

Horse Racing

August 11, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

It was like a day at the beach for Xtra Heat.

The spectacular filly avoided a trip to Kentucky, neared the $2 million level in career earnings and got a good tuneup en route to the World Thoroughbred Championships yesterday at Laurel Park.

An appreciative crowd gathered around Xtra Heat's second home - the winner's circle - after she toyed with four rivals to win the $125,000 Straight Deal Breeders' Cup by a comfortable 2 1/2 lengths over Outstanding Info.

"She just leaves me speechless and puts tears in my eyes," said jockey Harry Vega, who was aboard Xtra Heat for the eighth time. "She tries so hard, a true champion. I am very honored to be associated with her."

Earlier in the week, the Laurel race was in danger of being canceled for want of opposition to the daughter of Dixieland Heat who was purchased for $5,000 at the Timonium yearling sale two years ago.

But some late scrambling filled the field sufficiently to allow trainer John Salzman to stay home with Xtra Heat, who has banked $1,978,305 for owner Ken Taylor and several partners.

Despite conceding 12 to 17 pounds to her opposition, Xtra Heat was never under any extreme pressure in her 22nd victory in 29 lifetime starts.

Winter Leaf tried gallantly to force the pace, but was outrun with Xtra Heat well in hand.

"She just goes as fast as they want to run," said Vega, who never had to do anything but hand ride the filly. "It's hard to ride her any faster than she's already going."

Xtra Heat completed seven furlongs in 1:23.06 in a race she also won last year when it was conducted at six furlongs at Pimlico.

Salzman was happy that Winter Leaf forced her slightly, so "Xtra Heat would go a little faster. If she gets out there by herself, she might not get anything out of the race. The half in 45 and change is typical of her."

The trainer said the next test will probably come in the $150,000 Endine Stakes at Delaware Park on September 7. He explained that the race will be held under allowance conditions, which means she will not have to give as much weight to the opposition.

"Our main goal is the World Championships at Arlington Park," Taylor said. "We need to put her where she won't have to carry too much weight for a couple of races because to keep carrying 125 pounds plus would leave us pretty empty this fall."

Said Salzman: "We want to have a fresh horse in the fall when we meet all the top sprinters in the country. Hopefully, one or two more like this will put us right on target."

The 4-year-old Eclipse Award winner is 5-for-7 this year with a second and a third. Her only off-the board finish came in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in November of 2000 when she was 10th.

"No race is easy whether it is for $1 million or the $1250s they used to have at Charles Town," Salzman said. "But she amazes everybody."

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