Victory in Dubai would make Xtra Heat richest female ever

ON HORSE RACING

Horse Racing

March 02, 2003|By Tom Keyser

Now that Xtra Heat has set the record for stakes wins by a filly or mare in North America, she gets to fly to Dubai for the chance to set another mark.

If the Laurel mare wins the $2 million Golden Shaheen on March 29 in the Middle East, the winner's share of $1.2 million will make her the richest filly or mare in racing history.

Spain holds the record with earnings of $3,540,542. She won the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff in 2000 and was second the next year.

Xtra Heat, 5, earned $120,000 with her victory last weekend in the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park. That pushed her earnings to $2,389,635. Another $1.2 million would swell her bankroll to $3,589,635.

(It's always hard to write how much money Xtra Heat has made without pointing out that her former owners paid $5,000 for her as a 2-year-old.)

When John Salzman, her trainer and one of those former owners, heard about Xtra Heat possibly breaking the earnings record, he chuckled.

"She's got to win it," he said. "That's a million-two. They ain't giving it away."

Xtra Heat competed last year in the Golden Shaheen and finished third, behind Caller One and Echo Eddie. The six-furlong race, the world's richest sprint, is run on a straightaway, and Xtra Heat never changed leads under jockey Harry Vega.

Vega was filling in for injured veteran Rick Wilson. Wilson is back aboard the horse he rides better than anyone else. He says getting her to change leads (switching the leg with which she strides out first, thereby increasing stamina by shifting the load) will be no problem.

Salzman has been trying to keep track of the field for the Golden Shaheen. But it's constantly changing.

"Really, I don't know who she's got to run against," Salzman says. "But if it's the same bunch of horses she ran against last year, do I think she can beat them? I think she's got a hell of a shot to beat them."

And it's not the same bunch of horses. In fact, it looks as if the field will be weaker than last year's. Caller One, the winner, has retired. Echo Eddie, the runner-up, is injured. Orientate, last year's champion sprinter, is also retired.

Who are the best sprinters, and where are they? They're usually in the United States, where breeders covet speed more than their European brethren. The top sprinters in this country appear to be Disturbingthepeace, Gygistar, My Cousin Matt and Xtra Heat. They're all looking to run in Dubai, and Xtra Heat is probably best of the bunch.

My Cousin Matt entered the picture with an impressive victory last weekend in the General George Handicap at Laurel. The General George was contested on a sloppy track in the fog one race before the Barbara Fritchie. My Cousin Matt ran the same seven furlongs 2.64 seconds faster than Xtra Heat.

Salzman's not concerned. (The Golden Shaheen is six furlongs, Xtra Heat's best distance.)

"That other horse was driving," Salzman says of My Cousin Matt. "My horse won easy; Rick eased her up at the end. She could have run faster. She's not going to do anything more than she has to."

Plans call for Salzman to fly Saturday to Dubai. Xtra Heat will follow the next day. The race isn't the only thing on Salzman's mind.

"I'm worried about the war," he says. "But if I'm going to give this mare a shot, I've got to go."

Salzman and his two partners sold Xtra Heat for $1.5 million last fall to Classic Star Stable, a Utah-based racing operation with a breeding farm in Kentucky. Classic Star bought Xtra Heat as a broodmare prospect after completion of her racing career.

Classic Star's owners had their eye on the Dubai race from the moment they had their hands on Xtra Heat. What will come next, more racing or retirement?

"We haven't talked past Dubai," Salzman says.

Pouska dead at 68

Dolly Pouska, who pioneered the business of leasing nurse mares in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, died Feb. 20 of cancer. She was 68.

For 40 years, Pouska provided mares to farms where broodmares had died, couldn't produce milk or refused to nurse their foals. She kept the mares on the 40-acre Pouska Farm near North East in Cecil County.

It was quite an operation. Each year, her mares had foals, which she raised on buckets of powdered milk and then either kept or sold as pets or riding horses. She leased the mares as substitute mothers - about 40 a year - to a wide range of clients.

Richard Bennett, manager of Allaire duPont's Woodstock Farm in Cecil County, leased 125 mares from Pouska during the past two decades. Woodstock leased nurse mares for the foals of any mare sent to Kentucky to be bred.

"She was very good at what she did," Bennett says of Pouska. "She had a very commanding presence. You didn't mess with Dolly."

Her daughter, Joyce Ham, said the family will carry on the business. It's always been a family operation, she said, and that's how it will stay.

Grundlefoot reappears

Grundlefoot? In the Dubai World Cup?

It's true. The same Grundlefoot that raced for trainer Gary Capuano at Bowie from 1999 to last fall is set to run March 29 in the world's richest race, the $6 million Dubai World Cup.

Capuano trained Grundlefoot for Larry Fowler, who lives in Davidsonville, through four seasons. Grundlefoot won 12 races for the Fowler-Capuano team, including six stakes in Maryland and Delaware.

Late last summer, Capuano said, Fowler sold Grundlefoot to buyers from Saudi Arabia who wanted him for their longer races. On Jan. 24, Grundlefoot won Saudi Arabia's most prestigious race, the King's Cup, at about 2 1/8 miles.

The Dubai World Cup may be a bit short for the former Bowie runner; it's only 1 1/4 miles.

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