02/13/2003 1:00AM

Carson Hollow meets Xtra Heat in Fritchie


Five other fillies and mares are entered, including multiple graded-stakes winner Zonk. But Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park really boils down to a match race between Xtra Heat and Carson Hollow.

The 5-year-old Xtra Heat, the 125-pound highweight who has won 24 stakes races in her career, and Carson Hollow, a two-time graded stakes winner as a 3-year-old last year, share the same front-running style.

The draw slightly favors Carson Hollow, who will break from post 4, two slots outside of Xtra Heat and carry 119 pounds.

"I'd rather be outside but it doesn't make any difference," said Xtra Heat's trainer, John Salzman. "We are ready."

Carson Hollow, who comes into the Fritchie off three bullet workouts at Palm Meadows in south Florida, will be ridden for the first time by Mario Pino. Her regular jockey, John Velazquez, is staying in Florida to ride Triple Crown prospect Lion Tamer in the Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream.

"I like our draw because against a super horse like Xtra Heat you don't want to be inside," Pino said. "We definitely have our work cut out because of Xtra Heat, but we'll see what happens."

Carson Hollow will be making her first start since she finished last in the Breeders' Cup Sprint after flashing high speed for a quarter-mile. Her trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr., has said if Carson Hollow runs her race, everyone else will be running for second money.

"She's a nice filly who can run," said Salzman of Carson Hollow. "But I have a horse that can run, too, so I'll let her do my talking."

Xtra Heat won last year's Fritchie, one of her 7 victories in 11 starts during the year. She prepped for this year's Fritchie with an easy win in the What a Summer Stakes at Laurel last month.

Xtra Heat and Carson Hollow have consistently posted Beyer Speed Figures of more than 100. No one else in the field has ever run a triple-digit Beyer Figure. If the favorites duel each other into submission, however, either Zonk or Spelling could be poised to take advantage.

Zonk, who usually runs a mile or longer, most recently won the Grade 3 Affectionately Handicap in New York. Spelling is 4 for 4 at seven furlongs, including her two most recent races, which came at Laurel in November and December.

Forecasters are calling for snow in the region on Saturday. If the card is canceled, the Fritchie will run on Monday on a card that is highlighted by the Grade 2, $200,000 General George Handicap.

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