Updated on 09/15/2011 1:28PM

Championship bout for Xtra Heat

Harold Roth/Horsephotos
Xtra Heat, second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, runs in Saturday's De Francis with two Eclipses potentially on the line.

Maryland is home to the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and boxing's heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman. Saturday, Maryland hosts a horse race that could have championship implications in two divisions.

*, and Delaware Township in the $300,000, Grade 1 Frank De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park.

A victory by Xtra Heat could earn her Eclipse Awards as the North America's best sprinter as well as top 3-year-old filly.

"If we're thinking about Eclipse Awards these are the kinds of horses you've got to face," said trainer John Salzman, who plucked Xtra Heat out of a Maryland 2-year-old-in-training sale for $5,000. "If we were fortunate to beat them, I'd have to think it'd move her up on some people's lists."

Despite winning 17 of her first 20 starts including the Grade 1 Prioress, it was her gutty second-place finish to Squirtle Squirt in the Breeders' Cup Sprint that earned Xtra Heat respect. She was beaten only one-half length setting the pace from the inside, the worst part of Belmont Park's main track on Breeders' Cup Day.

"She [overachieved] given all the biases they had against her," Salzman said.

Salzman said Xtra Heat is training as well as she was entering the Breeders' Cup. Xtra Heat is four for four at Laurel, the track over which she regularly trains. Although Salzman deems Laurel a fair surface, he believes he has a home-field advantage over the California shippers.

"I don't know how much, because they're nice horses," Salzman said, "but being stabled here, training over the track, you would think I'd have some advantage."

Salzman did not name a rider at entry time and on Thursday morning he was still not revealing his options.

As she did in the Breeders' Cup, Xtra Heat will have to deal with early pressure from Caller One, who drew post 5 in the seven-horse field. The Sprint was Caller One's first race in 97 days and perhaps that lay off caught up with him late. A tighter Caller One could be difficult to handle. David Flores replaces Corey Nakatani in the irons from post 5.

The De Francis affords Kona Gold one last opportunity to defend the sprint title he won in 2000. After winning his first three starts of the year, Kona Gold was upset in the Grade 1 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap before finishing seventh, beaten four lengths, in the Breeders' Cup.

Trainer Bruce Headley believes Kona Gold didn't handle Belmont as well as he's handled other surfaces. He has also changed the way he has trained Kona Gold, putting shorter, quicker workouts in the 7-year-old gelding. Headley believes drawing the outside post in Saturday's seven-horse field should be an advantage.

"He's got all the speed on the inside, he can't be trapped, he can stalk and he can move when he wants," Headley said. "The only disadvantage is the horses that beat him are dropping weight. But he's feeling really well."

Kona Gold, who will be ridden by Alex Solis, carries co-highweight of 125 pounds along with Delaware Township. Xtra Heat gets in with 117 while Caller One will carry 122.

Kona Gold blew out three furlongs in 33.60 seconds on Monday at Santa Anita and Headley said Kona Gold appeared to handle Laurel's main track when he galloped over that surface on Thursday.

Delaware Township will make the final start of his career in the De Francis. Winner of the Grade 1 Forego and Grade 2 Forest Hills, Delaware Township finished sixth, beaten 2 3/4 lengths in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He is reunited with Jerry Bailey, who rode him in the Forego.

Trainer Ron McAnally picked a tough spot for Early Flyer to make his return to the races. A 3-year-old son of Gilded Time, Early Flyer has not been out since May when he knocked off Squirtle Squirt in the Grade 3 Laz Barrera at Hollywood Park.

New York-bred Say Florida Sandy and Texas-bred Boots on Sunday complete the field.

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