10/16/2002 12:00AM

Salzman: Xtra Heat 'training perfect'


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Xtra Heat, that amazing little package of a filly, has settled in wonderfully at Arlington Park, according to trainer John Salzman, and is approaching the Breeders' Cup Sprint in peak condition.

Xtra Heat shipped to Arlington a day after she won the Phoenix Breeders Cup on Oct. 6 at Keeneland. Taking a seven-hour van ride the morning after a tough race would knock out many horses, but Xtra Heat seems to bounce back from everything.

"She came out of that last one even better than usual," Salzman said. "I was a kind of worried because she left a little feed in her tub the first couple days. Then I realized: I'd gotten a new feed dipper. It was five quarts instead of two. She was getting 20 quarts of feed a day instead of 10. She was eating 18 quarts a day."

Not only has Xtra Heat been eating with vigor, she has perked up in the unseasonably cool weather here. Wednesday morning was the coldest day so far this year, and Xtra Heat was on the muscle during a routine gallop.

"She's getting tough. She tried to run off with the kid who was on her this morning," Salzman said. "When its warm, she's a lot quieter and she saves her energy for her races. She likes this cold weather. When it's this cool, she gets a lot tougher."

Salzman still sees no reason to breeze Xtra Heat before the Sprint and plans merely to gallop her up to the race. "She's training perfect right now," he said. "I couldn't ask for anything more."

Calabrese, Catalano nearing records

Owner Frank Calabrese and his private trainer, Wayne Catalano, are edging ever closer to establishing all-time records for wins at the Arlington meet, which concludes Oct. 27. Through Wednesday, Calabrese had 60 wins and Catalano 58. The record for owner and trainer wins are the same, 62 set in 1991, when Noel Hickey dominated Arlington racing with horses owned by Irish Acres Farms.

Hickey's horses were nearly all homebreds, but Catalano and Calabrese have crafted an exceptional meet with a collection of claimers, statebreds, and a handful of allowance horses. Catalano has won only 8 of 38 allowance starts, but is an amazing 44 for 93 in claiming races.

Catalano, who has a lock on the training title, is circumspect about getting the record. "It's tough, really tough to win races," he said. "We'll have some shots."

The stable had three horses - all with solid chances - entered on Thursday. Catalano said he expects to enter about five horses for the weekend's races.

Meanwhile, jockey Carlos Montalvo has become an unlikely beneficiary of Catalano's success. A struggling journeyman, Montalvo had won only a handful of races this meet until picking up business from Catalano late this summer. Montalvo is only 14 for 177 at the meet, but has ridden eight winners in 13 starts for Catalano.

"We needed a rider one day and he was there," Catalano said. "It's just worked out."

Six in tough Friday feature

Only six were entered in Friday's feature, a high-end, 6 1/2-furlong allowance sprint with a $100,000 claiming option, but the field is strong.

It's headed by Meadowminer, who terrorized mid- and high-level Arlington claiming sprints for Calabrese and Catalano until owner Kimberlie Molinaro and trainer Roy Houghton plucked him out of a $50,000 claimer on Aug. 23.

Meadowminer has started once for his new connections, when he faced a very strong field in a seven-furlong allowance race on Sept 29. Meadowminer was at an immediate disadvantage as a front-runner breaking from an inside post. With speed to his outside, jockey Larry Sterling had little choice but to tough out a protracted speed duel, in which Meadowminer did admirably. Despite taking the worst of a fast pace, Meadowminer lost by only a length in a fast race while finishing four lengths in front of the fourth-place horse.

This time, Meadowminer breaks outside his five rivals, giving Sterling a chance to wait and move his mount when he's ready.

Meadowminer should be positioned right outside Magic Doe, the tough 7-year-old Illinois-bred who ought to be sharp coming back from a 10-week layoff. The talented San Pedro was pulled up in a Sept. 27 start but has trained well since, while Intern, a natural miler, will be asked to perform at a distance shorter than his best. Spectacular Cat and Out of My Way complete the field.

Cup Day parking plans announced

Arlington has revealed Breeders' Cup Day plans for parking and traffic flow. Because of the incursion of temporary seating structures into the track's regular parking lots, most parking areas will be located at off-site locations. Fans who park in those areas will be transported to and from the appropriate admissions entrance via shuttle service. Pre-purchased parking credentials were mailed to patrons at the same time as their tickets.