Xtra Heat can't find spark as she finishes 6th in Sprint

Salzman philosophical

Vindication's win raises Derby profile

Azeri 1st

Horse Racing

October 27, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - In what could be her last race for her Maryland owners, the speedy filly Xtra Heat never saw the lead and finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint yesterday at Arlington Park.

After winning 24 of 31 races and earning $2.2 million for John Salzman, Harry Deitchman and Ken Taylor - Marylanders who paid $5,000 for her two years ago - Xtra Heat, who will offered at auction in Lexington, Ky., Nov. 3, met an early pace she couldn't overcome and a sprinting field she couldn't threaten.

After leading at some point in every sprint race in which she had competed, Xtra Heat broke third behind speed-crazy Thunderello and Carson Hollow. She settled behind the two leaders, rounded the bend comfortably and turned for home in advantageous stalking position.

But the little filly couldn't gain on the leaders or hold off the closers. She became engulfed by horses down the stretch and faded to sixth as Orientate, the 5-2 favorite, wore down the tenacious Thunderello for the win.

"Well, you win some and you lose some," said Salzman, the long-time Maryland trainer who has managed Xtra Heat through her magnificent career. "We took her back off the speed a little bit, and she just got beat."

Harry Vega, her jockey, said: "I can't make any excuses for her." Vega responded to additional questions with a terse, "No comment."

For D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Orientate, the victory was his 17th in the Breeders' Cup. The next-winningest trainer, Shug McGaughey, has eight.

Juvenile: The question was asked as soon as Vindication crossed the finish line: Can he break the jinx and become the first winner of the Juvenile to come back at 3 and win the Kentucky Derby?

A son of Seattle Slew trained by the high-profile Bob Baffert, Vindication is sure to attract massive attention between now and the first Saturday in May. The undefeated colt led every step of the 1 1/8 -mile race, besting Kafwain, another Baffert trainee, by 2 3/4 lengths.

Hold That Tiger, the promising Irish 2-year-old, broke last among the 13 youngsters, swooped seven-wide on the final turn and charged gallantly for third. His trainer, Aiden O'Brien, said the Storm Cat colt might be his stable's top hope for the Kentucky Derby.

The Laurel-based Toccet could not overcome his outside post position and a racing surface favoring front-runners. He finished ninth.

"I'm not even upset because he never had a shot from the get-go," said John Scanlan, his trainer. "I knew the post position was the kiss of death. Believe me, he's a nice horse. This wasn't a setback. He's got a long way to go."

Juvenile Fillies: Storm Flag Flying ignited memories of her grand-dam Personal Ensign, appearing to be beaten in the Breeders' Cup, but then recording a jaw-dropping victory.

After losing the lead in the stretch to Composure, Storm Flag Flying surged back into the lead and then, shockingly, coasted under the wire a half-length winner. In 1988, Personal Ensign completed a 13-for-13 career with a near-miraculous rally to nip Winning Colors by a nose in the Distaff.

Storm Flag Flying's dam, My Flag, won the Juvenile Fillies in 1985. Three generations winning Breeders' Cup races is unprecedented.

"I think it's extraordinary to have them all run the races they did in the Breeders' Cup," said McGaughey, who trained the trio for the Phipps' family. "All of them made it exciting. That's the blood and the breeding that gives them the class."

Mike Smith, who rode Composure, said he thought his filly would win after passing Storm Flag Fying in the stretch.

"I ran into a champion and a half," Smith said. "She came back in three jumps - fast. Horse just don't do that."

Distaff: Azeri answered the question. Yes, she's that good.

The California filly entered the Distaff with a five-race win streak and nine victories and one second in 10 races. She returned to the winner's circle after a sizzling five-length victory as a bona fide candidate for Horse of the Year.

Bred by the late Allen E. Paulson and owned by the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust, Azeri led every step, registering the second-fastest half mile in Distaff history. Her victory brought her trainer, Laura de Seroux, a former exercise rider for the legendary trainer Charlie Whittington, her first Breeders' Cup victory with her first Breeders' Cup horse.

Michael Paulson is Allen Paulson's son and executor of his estate. He said that Azeri, a superstar who should be shared with the world, would race next year.

"She's in a league of her own, a world of her own," said Paulson, choking with emotion. "She's a gift left by my dad."

Turf races: The three turf races offered the best and worst of racing: A powerful performance by one of the top horses in the world, a heroic effort by a great horse trying to overcome adversity, and tragedy.

High Chaparral, winner of the Irish Derby and Epsom Derby, captured the Turf by 1 1/4 lengths over America's top turf runner, the near-white, 7-year-old gelding With Anticipation.

Rock of Gibraltar, winner of a record seven straight Group I victories in Europe, tried to overcome a wide post and traffic in the Mile with a mighty advance down the stretch. He fell three-quarters of a length short of the long-shot winner, the French colt Domedriver.

In the Mile, the classy Landseer, a Group I winner in Europe, snapped his right foreleg making a powerful move surging around traffic on the final turn. He was euthanized.

Starine, a French-bred filly trained in this country by Bobby Frankel, won the Filly and Mare Turf by 1 1/2 lengths over last year's winner, Banks Hill, also trained by Frankel.

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