Xtra Heat a victory away from milestone

Fritchie win would make her female stakes champ

Horse Racing

February 15, 2003|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Already one of the most popular female racehorses of recent times, Xtra Heat can earn her place among female thoroughbreds of all time with a victory today in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park.

The 5-year-old mare who has raced three years from her Laurel base would become the leading female winner of stakes races in North America. The Barbara Fritchie would be her 25th stakes victory. She is tied at 24 with Susan's Girl, a three-time champion in the 1970s who won eight Grade I stakes at classic distances.

Xtra Heat, a sprinter with one Grade I victory, can't match Susan's Girl in depth of accomplishment, but the Maryland speedster has gained an ardent following while winning 25 of 34 races. So when an opposing trainer dismisses Xtra Heat as little more than a nuisance, bristles rise.

Richard Dutrow Jr., the New York trainer of Carson Hollow, says that if his filly runs her race, then everyone else, including Xtra Heat, is running for second money. Carson Hollow, 4, has won five of seven races.

John Salzman, trainer and former owner of Xtra Heat, didn't flinch in his response. "I'm going to let my horse do my talking; I'll let his mouth do his talking," he said. "My father told me it's better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to run your mouth and be made a fool."

With its $200,000 purse and Grade II status, the Barbara Fritchie is the first of three scheduled stakes this weekend at Laurel. "Scheduled" may be the operative word, as heavy snow was predicted for the region.

"Racing looks extremely questionable for both Saturday and Sunday," Lou Raffetto Jr., Maryland Jockey Club chief operating officer, said yesterday.

He said if the Barbara Fritchie today or the John B. Campbell Handicap tomorrow gets snowed out, then either or both will be run Monday along with the General George Handicap.

"We thought the best thing to do was card these stakes races as soon as possible because we have so many horses coming in from out of town," Raffetto said. "If the forecasters are correct, we're trying to make the best of a bad situation."

The Barbara Fritchie features the Grade I winners Xtra Heat and Carson Hollow as well as the Philadelphia threat, Zonk. If Xtra Heat at even money in the morning line and Carson Hollow at 9-5 hook up too fast early, then Zonk at 9-2 could benefit down the stretch. Of the seven fillies and mares in the seven-furlong race, they are the only ones under 10-1, according to Frank Carulli's early odds.

Tomorrow, the $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap features a field of 11 led by P Day, the Charles Hadry trainee seeking his third stakes win in a row. On Monday, the Grade I winners Affirmed Success and D'Wildcat head a 12-horse field in the $200,000 General George Handicap, the Grade II, seven-furlong male counterpart to the Barbara Fritchie.

Off the track, the inaugural "Rumble At The Races" will begin at 4 p.m. today in the Carriage Room at Laurel. Ten amateur boxing matches are scheduled. Tomorrow, Eclipse-award-winning apprentice jockey Ryan Fogelsonger and others will sign autographs and pose for pictures beginning at 11:30 a.m. on the first floor of the clubhouse.

On Monday, the Maryland Jockey Club will give away Xtra Heat bobbleheads to the first 4,000 patrons arriving at Laurel.

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