Champion sprinter Xtra Heat broke on top and went on to score an authoritative victory in Saturday's $50,000 What a Summer Stakes for fillies and mares at Laurel Park.
The 5-year-old Dixieland Heat bay mare snapped a two-race losing streak under top weight of 122 pounds with Rick Wilson riding. John Salzman trains Xtra Heat, who won for the seventh time in eight starts at Laurel.
She defeated a field of six as the 1-5 favorite, collecting her 25th career win in 34 races. The winning time for six furlongs was 1:09.43.
Xtra Heat was in command early through fractions of :23.18, :46 and :57.59. At the had of the stretch, Gazillion came to pressure her, cutting her lead to a half-length, but Xtra Heat took off under slight urging from Wilson to post a three-length victory.
Now owned by Classic Star Stable, Kentucky-bred Xtra Heat has career earnings of more than $2.2 million. Salzman is pointing her toward a defense of her 2002 victory in the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie (gr. II) Feb. 15.
"We wanted to make sure we got something out of her for the Fritchie," said Wilson. "I let the horse come up to me and was hoping that would happen because I wanted to see what she could do. She regrouped and took off again. She got plenty out of the race and ran fast. She wasn't at full speed today. I had a lot of horse but she is getting back to where she was before I got hurt."
"This was a lot of fun," Salzman said. "You have doubts when a horse that consistently wins gets beat in a couple of races. She's a year older and you wonder if she's lost a step. In her last race she gave 13 pounds to the winner and ran one of the best Beyers that she has ever run. That told me she's getting better and handicaps will be what beat her. If she cools out well our plans are to go in the Fritchie and then hopefully, go on to Dubai. My bags are packed. I hope I get to go."
The winner paid $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10. Gazillion returned $2.10 and $2.10. Bernie's Gold was third, paying $2.10. A total of $485,234 of the $502,862 show pool was wagered on the winner, resulting in a $107,030 minus pool.