02/11/2002 12:00AM

Girls, boys, or Santa Anita?


Trainer John Salzman is in a quandary.

He needs to get a race into his talented filly Xtra Heat before shipping her to Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen on March 23, but he can't pinpoint which of three races is the best spot. His options are Saturday's $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park, Monday's $200,000 General George Handicap (versus males) at Laurel, or the $125,000 Las Flores Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 23.

The Barbara Fritchie is the most logical, but there are two negatives as far as Salzman is concerned. The race is run at seven furlongs and Xtra Heat is better at six. Also, Xtra Heat was assigned 128 pounds for the race, meaning she would concede anywhere from eight to 18 pounds to her rivals that could include Raging Fever (120), Gold Mover (116), Prized Stamp (114), and Kimbralata (114).

"That seems like a lot of weight," Salzman said. "When you're that good, I guess you have to carry the grandstand."

Xtra Heat has won 18 of 23 races.

Salzman said he would enter Xtra Heat in the Barbara Fritchie when post positions are drawn for that race on Wednesday. He will examine the field before making a final decision whether to run. Harry Vega would ride.

Salzman said he could enter Xtra Heat in Monday's General George, also at seven furlongs. Though the race is against colts, Xtra Heat would carry 123 pounds, again making her the starting highweight. She would face Affirmed Success (121), Here's Zealous (115), Wrangler (115), Voodoo (111), and Dream Run (111).

Xtra Heat has twice faced males, finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and third in the De Francis Dash. The Golden Shaheen, which is run at Nad Al Sheba Race Course in the United Arab Emirates, is also against males.

If Salzman elects to skip both of this weekend's races at Laurel, he could ship Xtra Heat to Santa Anita for the six-furlong Las Flores. Weight assignments for that race are due this weekend.

However, Salzman was planning to ship Xtra Heat to Dubai on Feb. 24. That would not be feasible if she ran in Southern California on Feb. 23.

Xtra Heat is a finalist for an Eclipse Award as the nation's top 3-year-old filly and top sprinter of 2001. The awards will be announced Monday in Miami. She has not run since winning the Interborough Handicap at Aqueduct on New Year's Day. On Saturday, she worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds at Laurel, the second fastest of 21 moves at the distance. Only Kimbralata, who is likely to run in the Barbara Fritchie, worked faster.