05/06/2016 3:37PM

Rocket Heat breathes freely in Turf Sprint score

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Barbara D. Livingston
Rocket Heat, making his first start since having a breathing problem corrected surgically, wins the Turf Sprint Stakes under Flavien Prat.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Rocket Heat always has been fast, but after fading in a couple of recent races, he was found to be displacing his palate, so trainer Vann Belvoir had surgery performed to correct it. The first test came on Friday, in the Grade 3, $150,000 Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs, and Rocket Heat was breathing easy.

Despite facing a lineup seemingly filled with speed, Rocket Heat ran his 11 rivals off their feet. He sped to the front and never looked back, scoring a two-length victory in the five-furlong dash.

“I thought with the other speed being outside they might lay off him, and being drawn inside, you’ve got to go,” Belvoir said. “He got the break.”

Indeed, Rocket Heat ($19.60) came roaring out of the gate from post 4 and set splits of 21.74 seconds for the quarter-mile and 44.40 for a half-mile before completing five furlongs on firm turf in 56.47. Alsvid finished second, with Power Alert another 1 1/2 lengths back in third after finding himself in traffic from his rail draw.

Hootenanny, the lukewarm favorite at 3-1, finished in a dead-heat for eighth after being bumped at the start.

Rocket Heat was ridden by Flavien Prat, who is based in California but has spent the past month in Kentucky to ride at Keeneland and then here through Derby Week.

Rocket Heat, a gelding by Latent Heat, also is based in California. He traveled to Kentucky last month to run in the Shakertown at Keeneland, in which he finished seventh of 12 after setting a brisk early pace.

Mike Sanchez owns Rocket Heat, who has now won 6 of 17 starts. Rocket Heat is particularly effective at five furlongs. Last year, he won three times at that distance at Del Mar.