10/29/2001 1:00AM

Sprint: Squirtle Squirt saves Frankel's day


ELMONT, N.Y. - Squirtle Squirt, the winner of the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont Park on Saturday, saved the day for trainer Bobby Frankel.

Going into the Sprint, Frankel was 0 for 38 in Breeders' Cup races. Earlier on the card, he lost with favorites Flute in the Distaff and You in the Juvenile Fillies. Flute finished seventh and You was fourth. After the Sprint, Frankel finished 10th with Starine in the Filly and Mare Turf, third in the Turf with Timboroa, and eighth with Aptitude, the favorite in the Classic.

"I thought [Squirtle Squirt] was my fourth best shot, to be honest with you," Frankel said shortly after the Sprint.

On Sunday morning at his Belmont barn, Frankel, 60, reflected on the day.

"It was a bittersweet day," Frankel said. "It was very disappointing, but those horses had excuses. The post positions killed Aptitude and Flute, and You has a 102.3 temperature this morning."

Frankel said the best thing about winning the Sprint was people would no longer ask him about his slump in the Breeders' Cup.

"They can't ask that question anymore, that's the main thing," Frankel said, with a smile.

Squirtle Squirt ($21.20) was a half-length winner over Xtra Heat, who set the pace on a dead rail while running into a stiff headwind down the backstretch. Caller One, who pressed Xtra Heat, was third, a neck behind the runner-up. Swept Overboard put in a late run on the rail and finished fourth, a neck behind Caller One.

Kona Gold, the 7-2 favorite, was a disappointing seventh in his attempt to become the first repeat winner of the Sprint.

Squirtle Squirt, under Jerry Bailey, was never far off the pace, which was set by the lone filly in the field of 14, Xtra Heat, who clicked off fractions of 22.45 seconds, 44.75, and 56.30.

Squirtle Squirt came in between Xtra Heat and Caller One in midstretch and forged to the front just past the sixteenth pole.

"I didn't know about this one, but I thought we could win [for Frankel] before the day was over," said Bailey, who won his first Sprint.

The final time was 1:08.41 over a fast track.

Squirtle Squirt, who also won the Grade 1 King's Bishop in August, has likely sewn up the Eclipse Award with his win on Saturday. Frankel said the Dubai Golden Shaheen at Nad Al Sheba in March is a possible next start for Squirtle Squirt, who was scheduled to return to California on Wednesday or Thursday.

Xtra Heat returned to her barn at Laurel Saturday evening, and her trainer, John Salzman Sr., said Sunday that the filly will run in the $300,000 Frank J. De Francis might Dash, a Grade 1, at Laurel on Nov. 17.

"She ran a winning race," Salzman said. "I'm proud of her."

Bruce Headley, the trainer of Kona Gold, said his 7-year-old gelding will get a break and likely will return to the races next year. Kona Gold was scheduled to leave for California Tuesday.

"He either didn't handle the track or he is worn out," Headley said. "I can't believe I only got beat four lengths. But when you think you are going to win, four lengths is like a mile."

Squirtle Squirt's owner, David Lanzman, is the owner of a mortgage company in Los Angeles. Lanzman bought Squirtle Squirt last year as a 2-year-old at a Barretts auction for $25,000 and named the colt for a Pokemon character his son, Blair, likes. Squirtle Squirt underwent surgery last year to remove a chip from his knee and came into Frankel's barn earlier this year.

Frankel trained Squirtle Squirt's sire, Marquetry, who is also the sire of Artax, the winner of the 1999 Sprint.

Squirtle Squirt is the fourth 3-year-old to win the Sprint.