Updated on 09/16/2011 7:50AM

Distance main hurdle for Xtra Heat


John Salzman Sr., trainer of Xtra Heat, will be decked out in a tuxedo on Monday evening in Miami at the Eclipse Awards, eagerly awaiting the announcement of the winners in the sprint and 3-year-old filly divisions.

About 48 hours earlier, Salzman and his Eclipse Award finalist have some business to attend to at Laurel Park. That's when millionaire Xtra Heat shoots for her 19th career win from 24 starts in Saturday's $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap, a Grade 2 race at seven furlongs.

Xtra Heat, the winner of the Interborough in her last start on Jan. 1, is burdened with 128 pounds and concedes 12 to 16 pounds to her 10 rivals. She also has proven vulnerable on a couple of occasions in graded company at the Fritchie distance. Despite the negatives, Xtra Heat will be the favorite.

Salzman might enter Xtra Heat, the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, in Monday's $200,000 General George against males, but, he said, "I'm almost positive I'll run in the Fritchie."

Salzman said Xtra Heat, undefeated at six furlongs against females, is not as good at seven furlongs, but he's not interested in making excuses before the race.

"I'm looking for an excuse to win it," said Salzman, who plans on using the Fritchie as a springboard to the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 23.

Xtra Heat, with Harry Vega aboard, drew post 2. She is 4 for 5 over the Laurel surface.

Salzman, who co-owns Xtra Heat with Ken Taylor and Harry Deitchman, hopes his front-runner can avoid a suicide pace.

"The thing is, she leaves the gate so fast, but if someone else wants to go whoop-de-doo out there, I won't be worried if we get outrun for a half-mile," Salzman said. "I want [Vega] to ride a decent race and not blow the race the first five-eighths of a mile."

Outrunning or even keeping up with Xtra Heat, who routinely produces sizzling fractions, isn't easy.

Gold Mover, perhaps Xtra Heat's toughest rival, drew post 4 and trainer Mark Hennig is hoping for a stalking trip.

Gold Mover, a graded winner, was defeated by Xtra Heat in the Astarita at Belmont as a 2-year-old.

"Our filly is doing exceptional," Hennig said. "She's versatile and should be within striking distance, so if she's able to run down [Xtra Heat], it won't be a major project."

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