Xtra Heat Back Facing the Girls

After a pair of impressive runs against the boys, the hickory tough Xtra Heat should be happy enough to face only members of her own sex Saturday in the $75,000 Garland of Roses Handicap at Aqueduct. The six-furlong sprint is the first stakes race of the New York track's inner track winter season.

Xtra Heat, by Dixieland Heat out of Begin, led deep into the stretch of the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) before being passed by Squirtle Squirt and settling for second. She backed that up with a tough third in the grade I DeFrancis Dash at Laurel Park to Delaware Township after setting brutal opening fractions. Xtra Heat has raced 22 times since her June, 2000, debut, winning 17 of the contests. She is conditioned by John Salzman.

"It should make a big difference running with fillies after running against colts and some of the toughest horses in the world," Salzman said. "She's ready to run and there's nowhere else to go."

Xtra Heat's next race following the Garland of Roses could be a match race against Louisiana's pride and joy, Hallowed Dreams, who has won 25 times in 27 starts. A match race is being talked about for Super Bowl weekend at Fair Grounds. "If my horse stays together, I'd have to consider it," Salzman said. "The purse would have to be enticing."

Xtra Heat must first face a tough field in the Aqueduct contest, however. Trainer Jimmy Jerkins sends out Dat You Miz Blue, coming off an impressive score in the Ready Jet Go at Meadowlands. Raging Fever, with back class, is coming off a seven-month layoff. She won least year's Adirondack, Matron, and Frizette Stakes. She is coming off a fracture in the growth plate of her stifle. Elektraline could also be a factor Saturday. She comes off a win in the Besarbian Handicap (gr. III) at Woodbine.

The field, in post position order with jockeys and weights for the Garland of Roses: Look at the Lynx (Mike Luzzi, 113); Xtra Heat (Harry Vega, 124); Carafe (Javier Castellano, 111); Golightly (Robbie Davis, 113); Raging Fever (Aaron Gryder, 116); Dat You Miz Blue (Edgar Prado, 120); Tina Dynamite (Norberto Arroyo Jr., 112); Elektraline (Heberto Castillo Jr., 115).