Xtra Heat will take a run at motherhood

Kentucky owners decide to breed Maryland favorite

April 24, 2003|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Maryland sprinter Xtra Heat, whose rags-to-riches story made her one of the most popular horses in the country, has been taken out of training and sent to Kentucky to be bred.

The 5-year-old mare was transported by van to ClassicStar Farm from trainer John Salzman's barn at Laurel Park. She arrived at the farm six days ago, said Jon Freston, ClassicStar's racing manager.

"If she gets in foal, she's retired," Freston said yesterday. "If she doesn't, we could send her back to John and keep racing her. We'll make that decision when the time comes."

The preference, Freston said, is to get Xtra Heat pregnant by one of Kentucky's top stallions. Freston declined to say to which one Xtra Heat is likely to be bred. ClassicStar has prepared a short list of sires, and Xtra Heat's mate will depend on the best available stallion when she comes into heat.

Freston said veterinarians predict that will happen within the next 10 days. Afterward, he said, it will take 28 days to determine with certainty whether the mare is in foal. As she has arrived in Kentucky somewhat late in the breeding season, Xtra Heat will have only one attempt to become pregnant, he said.

ClassicStar bought Xtra Heat last fall for $1.5 million from Salzman and two partners. At the time, ClassicStar executives said they bought Xtra Heat as a broodmare - despite her diminutive size and modest pedigree - but first wanted to run her in a $2 million sprint race in the Middle East.

That was the Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 29 in the United Arab Emirates. They said they would decide after the six-furlong race, the richest sprint in the world, whether to retire and breed her or to keep racing her.

The day before the race, Xtra Heat injured her left front ankle in apparently struggling to get up after lying down in her stall. She was withdrawn from the race, flown back to the United States and returned to training at Laurel Park.

Freston said the injury had nothing to do with the decision to breed her.

"Her injury in Dubai was minor, but it was very ill-timed," Freston said.

Freston said ClassicStar's management team met after she left Dubai and decided this was the time to breed Xtra Heat.

"She really doesn't have a lot left to prove on the racetrack," Freston said.

Salzman and his partners purchased Xtra Heat for $5,000 at 2, and her performance on the track has been phenomenal by any measure.

She won 26 of 35 races and earned $2,389,635. She set a record for stakes wins - 25 - by a filly or mare in North America. She won the Eclipse Award in 2001 as outstanding 3-year-old filly, the first pure sprinter ever to win the award.

She raced in three Breeders' Cups. Perhaps her greatest performance came in defeat. Against an international cast of males billed as perhaps the best sprint field ever assembled, Xtra Heat finished second, losing by a half-length, in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint in 2001 at Belmont Park.

Salzman, her trainer, said that he'd miss her, but that he had no mixed feelings about her being bred.

"I'm tickled to death for her," he said. "I'm glad to see her go home, and I hope she has a whole lot of nice foals."

Xtra Heat was born in Kentucky in 1998. She was modestly bred, a daughter of the sire Dixieland Heat and the mare Begin. She is small, even for a mare, but her speed, soundness and determination made her a star.

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