Breeders' Cup Sprint contender Xtra Heat withstood some quick early pressure and turned in her first career victory over males by three lengths Saturday in the 150th running of the $250,000 Phoenix (gr. III) at Keeneland.
Sent off a heavy favorite in the field of five going six furlongs, Xtra Heat, with regular rider Harry Vega, was between speedsters Day Trader on her inside and Touch Tone on the outside through a :21 1/5 opening quarter-mile and :44 3/5 for the half.
Day Trader took back from the quick pace and Touch Tone appeared to gain a slight advantage heading into the far turn. But without urging from Vega, Xtra Heat cruised to the lead and put away Touch Tone in the lane. Runner-up Day Trader, in position to pounce in mid-stretch for jockey Calvin Borel, passed Touch Tone but did not challenge the winner.
It was Xtra Heat's third straight victory.
"I had it won, that's the way I felt," said Vega, asked if he was concerned about the heavy early pressure.
The final time for the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Dixieland Heat was 1:10.
Xtra Heat is being pointed for a return to the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) Oct. 26 at Arlington Park by trainer John Salzman.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't (concerned)," said Salzman. "I was concerned, especially when (Touch Tone) got in front of her. If she comes out okay, that's where we're heading, right up to Arlington."
She won for the 24th time in 31 career starts. The $150,000 first prize for winning the oldest North American stakes race increased her career earnings to more than $2.2 million.
Xtra Heat paid $3.40 and $2.20. Day Trader returned $2.60. The $2 exacta was $9.40.