12/12/2002 1:00AM

Xtra Heat back where she's perfect

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Fans of Xtra Heat breathed a sigh of relief when she was bought by S. David Plummer's ClassicStar and he decided to keep her in training instead of sending her to the breeding shed.

On Saturday at Aqueduct, Xtra Heat will be in action for the first time since the sale in the $75,000-added Garland of Roses Handicap. The last time Xtra Heat ran at Aqueduct, she won the Interborough by 5 1/2 lengths on Jan. 1. She is 3 for 3 over the inner track.

Xtra Heat, a winner of $2,223,305 and 23 stakes, will be a short-priced favorite over eight fillies and mares in the six-furlong Garland of Roses. The 127-pound highweight, Xtra Heat concedes 11 to 15 pounds to her rivals.

Trainer John Salzman Sr., Harry Deitchman, and Ken Taylor owned Xtra Heat, the Eclipse Award champion 3-year-old filly last year, before Plummer privately purchased the 4-year-old for $1.5 million last month. Salzman has remained the trainer.

In her last race, Xtra Heat finished sixth in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Arlington Park on Oct. 26.

The ungraded Garland of Roses doesn't measure up to the many important stakes Xtra Heat has competed in and won, but Salzman said the race has its own merits.

"It's still a pretty good chunk of money, and at least we are getting her back to racing," Salzman said. "There aren't a lot of choices right now, and if we want to go to Dubai [in March], we've got to start somewhere."

Salzman said he is not bothered by the forecast for rain on Saturday. Xtra Heat has made one start over a wet track and won.

Xtra Heat, who has been working sharply at her Laurel Park, will be reunited with Rick Wilson. Wilson has not ridden the filly since September 2001, when he broke his leg.

Xtra Heat, who drew post 5, might have some company on the front end from the speedy Astrid.

Dat You Miz Blue is Xtra Heat's toughest opponent. When they last met, Xtra Heat won the Grade 2 Genuine Risk and Dat You Miz Blue finished fourth.

Dat You Miz Blue loves a wet surface but her trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, cautioned, "It has to be a fast slop. She doesn't like a heavy, slow track."

Dat You Miz Blue, who drew post 9 and will be ridden by John Velazquez, figures to track Xtra Heat early.

The consistent Redhead Riot is at a disadvantage with all the speed in the race. Bonefide Reason, a closer stepping up in class, seeks her third consecutive win.

THE FIELD

GARLAND OF ROSES

Purse: $75,000, 6 furlongs

PPHORSEJOCKEYWTODDS
1SaskyaJ. McKee11250-1
2HarmonyLodgeM. Luzzi11310-1
3Belle ArtisteJ. Samyn11420-1
4Bonefide ReasonJ. Castellano11315-1
5Xtra HeatR. Wilson1273-5
6Outstanding InfoS. Bridgmohan11312-1
7AstridC. Lopez11320-1
8Redhead RiotR. Migliore1148-1
9Dat You Miz BlueJ. Velazquez1164-1

Odds by Brian Pochman

for Aqueduct entries.

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