Bargain Filly Sizzles to Eclipse Award Honors

The year 2001 was a hot one for anyone trying to keep pace with Xtra Heat. The bargain-basement $5,000 purchase brought attention to the oft-neglected sprint filly division by her domination of her rivals week in and week out, then nearly shook the industry to the core when she just failed to pull off a major upset at the World Thoroughbred Championships in the Penske Auto Center Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I). Her speed, brilliance, and durability led her not only to the 3-year-old filly championship, but a nomination as North America's top sprinter.

Her trainer and co-owner, John Salzman Sr., fashioned a scorched-earth campaign with Xtra Heat on the East Coast in 2001. If there was a one-turn race for 3-year-old fillies in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic areas, it was likely the Kentucky-bred daughter of Dixieland Heat was there, and more than likely she was a winner. From Jan. 7 to Nov. 17, the diminutive filly made 13 starts, with her longest gap between races being six weeks. That gap came between her first two starts of the year--the Jan. 7 Ruthless Stakes and the Feb. 17 Dearly Precious Stakes, both at Aqueduct.

The farthest she strayed from the Eastern Seaboard was a leg stretcher to Lexington for the seven-furlong, 184-feet Stonerside Beaumont Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland. That 2 3/4-length romp came on April 22. Seventeen days later she was back in New York for the Nassau County Stakes (gr. II) where she met her first defeat of the year, dropping a nose decision to Cat Chat. She would finish behind another filly just once more in 2001.

Besides her blazing speed, another constant for most of the year was jockey Rick Wilson. "She's not that big, but she's just all heart," Wilson said of her in April. While the Maryland veteran was aboard for her first 11 starts, he unfortunately had to miss her Breeders' Cup and De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) after sustaining a broken right leg and three broken ribs in a spill at Pimlico in October.

There were several good reasons Xtra Heat was 17-1 in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. She was the lone female in the 14-horse cast, and one of just three 3-year-olds; she was breaking from the rail; and the talent-rich field assembled was overloaded with early speed. She not only outbroke the field, but led the way through testing splits of :22.45 and :44.75, and didn't give an inch in the stretch as the best male sprinters in training made a run at her. While she fell a half-length short of victory, Xtra Heat proved she belonged on the world stage.

She ran another gut-wrencher against older males three weeks later in the De Francis Dash at Laurel where, again, she did little to hurt her reputation with a third-place finish.

Xtra Heat's sale history is a lesson in diminishing returns. A $9,100 Keeneland November sale weanling in 1998, she sold for $4,700 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's August yearling sale before Salzman signed a $5,000 ticket for her at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic's 2-year-old sale in May of 2000. She hit the track running, winning eight of nine starts her juvenile year--her lone blemish an up-the-track effort in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). She would become even more seasoned with age.

Salzman claims the filly has been for sale throughout her racing career. An outside deal has yet to be struck, and she remains owned by a triumvirate of Salzman, Kenneth Taylor, and Harry Deitchman. She was bred by Pope McLean Sr. and Jr., Marc McLean, Scott Rion, and Peter Feringa Jr.