07/11/2002 12:00AM

Nice Boots Baby rested for Azalea


MIAMI - Xtra Heat won't be the only fast filly shipping down from Maryland to compete on Saturday's Summit of Speed program at Calder. The other is a 3-year-old named Nice Boots Baby who heads a field of nine fillies in the six-furlong, $250,000 Azalea Stakes.

The Azalea is one of four races on the undercard of Saturday's $1.4 million Summit of Speed program. The others are the $250,000 Carry Back at six furlongs for 3-year-old colts and geldings, the $50,000 Rocket Man to be decided over a quarter-mile and the $50,000 Comet at five furlongs.

Nice Boots Baby looked like a young Xtra Heat after winning her first three career starts, including Aqueduct's Ruthless Stakes, by a combined margin of 17 lengths. But after finishing a tiring and well-beaten fifth in the Dearly Precious Stakes, she was sent to the sidelines by trainer Anthony Dutrow, who says she's fit and ready to roll for her return in the Azalea.

"She had a small curb in behind that was aggravating her and obviously bothered her during the Dearly Precious," said Dutrow, who trains Nice Boots Baby for owner William Farish Jr. "It was a small problem, but we gave her the necessary time to get over it, and she's trained exceptionally well for her return."

Nice Boots Baby has turned in a string of fast works over her home base at Laurel, and Dutrow is confident his filly will turn in the same type of performance that led to her first three career victories.

"I think she's a real runner, and I'm looking forward to getting her back in action on Saturday," said Dutrow. "She took on some decent kind of fillies, several of whom went on to really get something done after we beat them, and I think she's going into this race the same way she did her first three starts."

Mario Pino, Nice Boots Baby's regular rider, will again have the assignment.

Nice Boots Baby is part of an outstanding field in the Azalea. Her competition will include Willa on the Move, runner-up to You in the Grade 1 Acorn on June 7; six-time stakes winner Bold World; the undefeated Copper Belle; and the two-time Grade 2 stakes-placed Respectful.

Willa on the Move proved no match for You but finished well in front of the highly regarded Bella Bellucci when she stretched out to a mile for the first time in the Acorn. She will wear blinkers for the first time in the Azalea.

"She's still a little green and gets to wandering around a little bit, which is why I added the blinkers," said trainer Rodney Jenkins. "I also wanted to put a little speed in her since we're turning her back off a mile race."

Bold World has won five of her six starts, all stakes, at 3, owns a stakes win over this track, and looks like the one to catch in the Azalea.

Respectful was beaten a nose by Proper Gamble in the Grade 2 Beaumont earlier this year. She also finished second in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita.

Copper Belle is undefeated in three starts but will get tested for class making her stakes debut on Saturday.

The Carry Back lured invaders Affirm Cat, Captain Squire, Day Trader, and World Trade, although the race may give the locals their best opportunity for a victory in the four main events on the Summit of Speed program. Kingmaker leads the Calder-based contingent, having posted a pair of extremely impressive sprint victories earlier in the meet. Royal Lad, a two-time stakes winner this season, also looms a danger over his home course.

Another Maryland-based speedball, Baby Spark, will be favored to win the two-furlong Rocket Man. In the Comet, the graded stakes-placed Groomstick Stock's is among the main contenders, along with Uncle Rocco, Sweeping Smoke and Highway Prospector.