06/24/2003 11:00PM

'Willa' faces softer foes in Xtra Heat


ELMONT, N.Y. - It's not for a lack of trying that Willa on the Move fits the conditions for the $65,000 Xtra Heat Stakes on Friday at Belmont Park.

The Xtra Heat is a six-furlong overnight stakes for older fillies and mares who have not won an open stakes. Willa on the Move has spent most of her brief career chasing top horses in stakes races, but she hasn't been able to win one, and the Xtra Heat represents a major class drop for the 4-year-old filly.

Only five other horses will challenge Willa on the Move, including the classy Bonefide Reason and the lightly raced Fresh Tracks. Rounding out the field are The Fifth Element, Redhead Riot, and Mooji Moo.

Last year, Willa on the Move finished second in three graded stakes races, the Grade 3 Miss Preakness, the Grade 1 Acorn, and the Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup. Outside of graded stakes races, she is undefeated, and in those races, she has won by daylight, including an 11-length score in the $60,000 Politely Stakes on Nov. 2 last year, a race restricted to Maryland-bred horses.

The big question is how she will run after a seven-month layoff. Willa on the Move has not started since Nov. 29, when she was fifth in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap. But she has run well after layoffs before, including her Politely win, which came after a 3 1/2-month hiatus.

John Velazquez, the leading rider at Belmont, will be aboard Willa on the Move for trainer Anthony Dutrow, who will ship the filly up from his base at Laurel Park in Maryland.

The race will likely set up well for Willa on the Move. Mooji Moo and Redhead Riot figure to try for the lead out of the two outside posts, and Willa on the Move should be able to stalk through the first half-mile.

Fresh Tracks, who will be ridden by Jerry Bailey, probably figures in the second flight as well. A 4-year-old Silver Deputy mare, Fresh Tracks has won her four races by closely tracking the leaders, and that style has helped her run her record to four wins and four seconds in 10 starts while competing in top-level allowance company in New York. In her last race, she was second by a neck in the $100,000 My Juliet Stakes in the slop at Philadelphia Park.