A big weekend of racing at Belmont Park will be capped off in grand style Sunday when millionaire sprinter Xtra Heat takes on six challengers in the Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II).
Last year's champion 3-year-old goes to the post as the 127-pound highweight, coming off a one-length win in the Genuine Risk Stakes (gr. II) on May 12. The daughter of Dixieland Heat out of Begin (by Hatchet Man) has compiled an impressive 20-3-2 record out of 26 starts and her earnings exceed $1.7 million.
Owned by Kenneth Taylor, trainer John Salzman, and Harry Deitchman, Xtra Heat has not lost a race against females since finishing second to Victory Ride in last July's Test Stakes (gr. I). She made a trip halfway around the world in March to finish third in the $2 million Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) on Mar. 23 in Dubai. Salzman said the filly is doing better now than she was prior to the Genuine Risk.
"Maybe the Dubai trip took more out of her than we originally thought," Salzman said. "We were pleased with her effort the other day, but she bounced out of the race better than the way she went into it. She hasn't shown me any signs of going the other way."
Celtic Melody and Gold Mover, the one-two finishers in the grade I Humana Distaff on Churchill Downs' Kentucky Derby day undercard, are two four-year-old fillies that could upset Xtra Heat.
Gold Mover actually finished first in the Humana by a head, but was disqualified by the stewards for slamming Celtic Melody at the eighth-pole. Trainer Mark Hennig said his multiple stakes winning filly exited the race in good shape.
"She came out fine, but she was real mad they took her down," Hennig joked. "Both fillies ran huge. I wanted to give my horse a little extra time after the race because she ran so hard and it was very warm."
The Vagrancy marks the third time Gold Mover and Xtra Heat have faced each other. Gold Mover, owned by Edward P. Evans, drew post 4 under jockey John Velazquez and will carry 115 pounds.
Celtic Melody, who is trained by Jimmy Jerkens and owned by Vinery Stables, figures to be near the pace early. She breaks from post five under 115 pounds. Mark Guidry has the mount.
Bohemia Stable's Shine Again fell just a length short of defeating Xtra Heat in the Genuine Risk. Trained by Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens, Shine Again is an off-the-pace threat for jockey Jean-Luc Samyn.
The Vagrancy field is as follows:
PP/ HORSE / TRAINER / JOCKEY / WGT.
1 / Shine Again / H. Allen Jerkens / Jean-Luc Samyn /117
2 / La Galerie / John Kimmel / Richard Migliore / 113
3 / Penny Marie / Robert Hess Jr. / Jerry Bailey / 114
4 / Gold Mover / Mark Hennig / John Velazquez / 115
5 / Celtic Melody / James Jerkens / Mark Guidry / 115
6 / Xtra Heat / John Salzman / Harry Vega / 127
7 / Cat Cay / Shug McGaughey / Pat Day / 118