08/16/2001 12:00AM

Saturday Stakes roundup

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For now, Xtra Heat will duck tough foes

By KAREN M. JOHNSON

It was a rare loss for Xtra Heat, but her performance in last month's Grade 1 Test at Saratoga was one of her grittiest.

Xtra Heat was pushed through eye-popping fractions of 21.51 seconds and 44.00 in the seven-furlong Test by Harmony Lodge, who staggered home seventh while Xtra Heat battled on bravely to finish second behind Victory Ride. Xtra Heat's 3 1/4-length loss was only her third in 17 career starts.

Saturday at Pimlico, Xtra Heat looks to get back in the winner's circle in the $125,000 Straight Deal Handicap Breeders' Cup, a six-furlong handicap for fillies and mares.

The Straight Deal, part of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship series, is Xtra Heat's first race against older horses, and she must carry 120 pounds, conceding five to eight pounds to her six rivals. Despite those factors, it's hard to knock Xtra Heat, who is undefeated in seven starts at the distance.

Trainer and co-owner John Salzman, who is based at Laurel Park, said he considered sending Xtra Heat back to Saratoga for the Grade 1 Ballerina at seven furlongs on Aug. 26 but decided to stay home for an easier spot.

"If this race hadn't gone, I would have run in the Ballerina," Salzman said. "But I thought I would run at Pimlico and then in a $150,000 race at Delaware [Grade 3 Endine on Sept. 8], rather than run against those tough horses. It made sense to me."

Should Xtra Heat run well in her next two starts, Salzman said he would consider the Breeders' Cup Sprint for his filly on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park, where she won the Grade 1 Prioress in July.

"There's a lot ifs, ands, and buts, but the Breeders' Cup is in the back of our minds," Salzman said.

Xtra Heat will be ridden by her regular pilot, Rick Wilson, from post 7.

The biggest threat to Xtra Heat - at least from an early pressure standpoint - could be Shutup and Dance, who set a lively pace under pressure to win the Blue Sparkler by 4 1/4 lengths over three rivals at Monmouth Park on July 28.

Shutup and Dance, a 5-year-old, made her career debut only this year. From six starts, Shutup and Dance, who is trained by one of the newest members of the Hall of Fame, Richard Mandella, has won four races.

Superduper Miss is handy at six furlongs and with her stalking style, will be ready to pounce if a speed duel knocks out the front-runners.

Completing the field is Crystal Sea, who turns back in distance after several route losses, Ivy's Jewel, Lily's Affair, and Atlantic Destiny.

Philadelphia: President's Cup

Seven 3-year-olds are scheduled to meet in the $100,000 Larry R. Riviello President's Cup on Saturday at Philadelphia Park.

The one-mile President's Cup is a prep for next month's $500,000 Pennsylvania Derby.

The main local threat is Penn National shipper Beau's Surprise, a winner of two of three starts at Philly Park.

New York invader Wicked Will beat last year's 2-year-old champion, Macho Uno, by a whisker at Saratoga last month in a third-level allowance race. Wicked Will seeks his first stakes win in the President's Cup.

A victory from the promising Saratoga Broadway would be no surprise. A winner of his first three starts, Saratoga Broadway was a fast-closing third in his last race off a layoff.

The fifth race on the card features female riders from around the world competing in an Amateur Riders of America Club event.

Delaware: Red Dog Handicap

Jarf raced just once in 2000, then was laid off for almost a year before surfacing last January at Gulfstream Park. When he appeared in a $50,000 claiming sprint, trainer Allen Iwinski was ready and waiting to take him.

Jarf, a 5-year-old horse, has made Iwinski's decision look brilliant. In five starts since coming to Iwinski's barn, Jarf has won three allowance races, including one in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 110, and finished second twice.

Jarf goes for his first stakes victory for Iwinski in the $55,000, 1 1/16-mile Red Dog Handicap on Saturday at Delaware Park.

Formerly owned by Allen Paulson and trained by Bill Mott, Jarf was among a number of horses Iwinski was interested in buying. But he was unable to broker a deal before Jarf was sold by Paulson's estate. When Jarf showed up in a claiming race at Gulfstream, Iwinski had forgotten about him.

"I didn't even remember it was the same horse until one of my owners, Bob Amendola, called me up," Iwinski said. "I looked into it and confirmed he was the same horse we were trying to buy. He has turned into one of our best claims."

Jarf comes into the Red Dog after finishing a good second to Broken Vow in the $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Memorial on July 21. Overall, he has a record of 6-4-1 in 19 starts.

Thistledown: Loyalty Stakes

NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Joanies Bella, the only filly in a field of six Ohio-bred 2-year-olds, will play catch-me-if-you-can in the $30,000 Loyalty Stakes Saturday at Thistledown.

A daughter of Mercer Mill, Joanies Bella has won two of her four career starts. She won at first asking going 4 1/2 furlongs at Hawthorne on May 28, then finished fifth in a Churchill Downs allowance race and fourth in the Grade 3 Debutante Stakes there. In her last race, she romped by 12 1/2 lengths in the 5 1/2-furlong Tah Dah Stakes at River Downs on July 21.

Joanies Bella has the speed to make the lead in the Loyalty, which is six furlongs. She carries high weight of 120 pounds, three pounds more than her rivals. Her regular jockey, Tommy Molina, rides. She is trained by Tim Hamm.

Main opposition should come from Dinkers Millennium, who beat state-bred maidens on Aug. 4 in his last start. He has displayed a solid late kick in his three races. Tony Caminita will ride Dinkers Millennium, who is trained by Joe Shuman.

Of the others, Watch Me Fire may have the best chance of winning. William Troilo will come in from River Downs to ride Watch Me Fire for trainer William J. Napier.

- additional reporting by Joe DeVivo and Chuck Scaravilli