`Heat's' Maryland days may be only a memory


Horse Racing

October 13, 2002|By Tom Keyser

The filly Xtra Heat, whose net of charm has snared racing fans throughout the country, may have left her last hoof print in Maryland.

After she whipped males last Saturday at Keeneland, her trainer and part-owner, John Salzman, vanned her Sunday to Arlington Park in Illinois. There, on Oct. 26, she will compete in the Breeders' Cup as one of the star attractions, the filly with 24 wins in 31 races taking on males again in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Then, after that race, win or lose, Salzman plans on vanning her directly to Lexington, Ky., where she is slated to go through the auction ring Nov. 3 at the Fasig-Tipton selected fall mixed sale. If the gavel falls and Xtra Heat is sold, she will be driven away on roads not likely leading back to Maryland.

For Marylanders who dread the thought of losing Xtra Heat, the saving grace may be that no bidder will top the $2.2 million minimum that Salzman and his partners have placed upon their 4-year-old filly.

Even if she wins the Breeders' Cup Sprint, she may not attract a bid higher than that, especially this year when the top prices for thoroughbreds at auction have fallen sharply.

"I don't know whether we'll get her sold or not," Salzman said from Arlington Park.

If they don't, Salzman will bring Xtra Heat back to Laurel Park and continue racing her "as long as she stays sound," he said. Her target then would be a second try at the world's richest sprint, the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen in March in the Middle East. Xtra Heat finished third in that race last year.

But for now, her target is the Breeders' Cup. No other horse in the so-called World Thoroughbred Championships can boast of a record so long and distinguished.

"She's amazing," Salzman said. "I can't think of words to explain it. I don't think anybody can."

Respect for Toccet

An international panel of handicappers and racing secretaries assembled by the Breeders' Cup has been ranking horses for its eight races. In its latest release before the announcement Thursday of horses pre-entered in the races, Xtra Heat ranks second in the Sprint behind Orientate, the D. Wayne Lukas-trainee who has won four in a row.

Xtra Heat has been a fixture at the top of the rankings since they started this summer. But suddenly, Maryland has another horse ranked near the top of all horses in the world in its division.

Toccet, winner of last weekend's Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, is tied for second with three other 2-year-olds in rankings for the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The regally bred bay colt is trained by John Scanlan at Laurel Park.

Toccet won the Grade I Champagne by 1 1/2 lengths at 9-1 odds for his third straight win. It was his first stakes try after easy victories in Maryland. A son of Awesome Again and the Cozzene mare Cozzene's Angel, Toccet was bred and is owned by Daniel M. Borislow.

Scanlan has trained privately for Borislow, who lives in Florida, for 11 years. But Borislow recently began culling his stable, and Scanlan has begun accepting other clients.

Of Toccet, Scanlan said: "He's like the Energizer bunny. He never gets tired. He'll run as far as they write the races."

Scanlan plans on shipping Toccet to Arlington Park on Oct. 21, five days before the Breeders' Cup. The undefeated Sky Mesa is ranked No. 1 in the Juvenile, followed by Toccet in a tie with the Europeans Elusive City and Tomahawk, and the New York-based Whywhywhy.

`Magic's' return slowed

Magic Weisner's training toward a return to racing has been delayed. Nancy Alberts' 3-year-old gelding, recovering from West Nile virus, has not regained full strength in his right hind leg and hip.

On Wednesday, Alberts transported Magic Weisner back to the New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa. He underwent a bone scan the next day and was scheduled to return yesterday to his Laurel stall.

Dr. Bob Vallance, his veterinarian in Maryland, wanted to make sure that Magic Weisner hadn't pulled a muscle or suffered a hairline fracture struggling to get up while paralyzed from the disease. The bone scan turned up nothing amiss, Vallance said.

He said Magic Weisner will be turned out on a farm, where he can build up strength naturally. That could take one to three months, Vallance said.

Asked whether Magic Weisner might not be able to return to racing, Vallance said: "To my knowledge, nearly all the horses [racehorses who contracted West Nile virus] have come back to their original form. But it may take some time."

Et cetera

Who knows which way the board representing the horsemen who own Rosecroft Raceway will go Thursday when they meet to decide the future ownership of the track.

The board seems split on whether to sell to Magna Entertainment Corp., the largest bidder, or to Greenwood Racing, the second-largest bidder. A two-thirds majority is needed to consummate a sale.

Trainer Bud Delp said Include won't contest the Breeders' Cup Classic after his fifth-place finish last weekend in the Meadowlands Cup. He said plans for the 5-year-old haven't been finalized.

Laurel Park will deviate from its Tuesday-to-Saturday schedule this week and run tomorrow, Columbus Day. Two $60,000 stakes for Maryland-breds are set: the Heavenly Cause Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, featuring the Allen Jerkens-trained Kitty Knight from New York, and the Rollicking Stakes, featuring the Maryland Million Nursery winner, Cherokee's Boy.

The $250,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase on Saturday at the Far Hills Races in Far Hills, N.J., will be a who's who of top jumpers, including Maryland-based Quel Senor and Tres Touche. The 2 5/8 -mile race will be shown at 5:30 p.m. the next day on NTRA 2Day at the Races.

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