05/06/2002 11:00PM

Xtra Heat likely for Sunday


ELMONT, N.Y. - Xtra Heat, the speedy sprinter voted 3-year-old filly champion of 2001, will most likely make her next start in Sunday's $150,000, Grade 2 Genuine Risk Handicap at Belmont Park, trainer John Salzman said Tuesday.

Salzman said his other option is the $200,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap at Pimlico against males on Preakness Day, but added he would prefer to keep Xtra Heat running against her own sex for now. Salzman said he needed only to review the weights for both races before totally committing.

"I'm leaning that way," Salzman said of the Genuine Risk.

Xtra Heat was assigned 126 pounds for the Genuine Risk, two pounds fewer than what she carried winning the Barbara Fritchie Handicap in February and equal to what she carried when she ran third against males in the Dubai Golden Shaheen in March.

Since returning from Dubai, Xtra Heat has worked three times, including a five-furlong move in 58 seconds on April 26. On Saturday, she breezed a half-mile in 47 seconds at Laurel Park.

Salzman said the trip to Dubai "didn't seem to bother her at all. She's eating good, she's training good."

Salzman said Harry Vega would ride Xtra Heat.

As of Tuesday, there were only four fillies and mares considered definite to face Xtra Heat. They were Shine Again (117 pounds), Dat You Miz Blue (116), La Galerie (114), and Home on the Hill (111).

Left Bank returning in Bold Ruler

Left Bank, away from the races since winning the Grade 1 Cigar Mile in November, will make his return in Saturday's $100,000, Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap. Trainer Todd Pletcher is hoping to use the six-furlong Bold Ruler as a prep for the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on May 27.

Pletcher was hoping to get Left Bank started in March in Florida then run him in the Carter in April. But Left Bank bruised a foot while training at Gulfstream, forcing him to miss some valuable training time.

The stated objective for Left Bank since last fall has been the Metropolitan Handicap - one of the most prestigious mile races in the country - and Pletcher knows he's playing catch-up to make it.

"In a perfect world, in terms of the Met Mile, the Bold Ruler would be one week earlier, but I still needed the time to get him ready," Pletcher said. "I know I only have 16 days to get him ready, but he's an older horse that carries a lot of weight, and he's the kind of horse than can run well in a short period of time."

On Tuesday, Left Bank worked four furlongs in 48.83 seconds under jockey John Velazquez. Left Bank normally works in company, but Pletcher worked him alone on Tuesday because he did not want him to go too fast. Pletcher said he used a jockey instead of an exercise rider because he didn't want the work to be too slow, either.

Left Bank was assigned high weight of 121 pounds for the Bold Ruler, which has previously been run at Aqueduct. Left Bank figures to face only four rivals including Say Florida Sandy (116), Wrangler (116), Silky Sweep (114), and Late Carson (113).

Trainer Graham Motion said He's a Knockout, who would have been one of the favorites for the Bold Ruler, will skip the race to run in the Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness Day.

Dust Me Off heads Nassau County field

Dust Me Off, the upset winner of the nine-furlong Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream in March, will cut back to seven furlongs Saturday when she runs in the $200,000, Grade 2 Nassau County Breeders' Cup Handicap for 3-year-old fillies.

Dust Me Off has twice won around two turns this year, but trainer Allen Jerkens opted to skip the Kentucky Oaks to point to the one-turn races at Belmont this spring. He is looking at the Grade 1 Acorn on June 7 and then possibly the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 29 for Dust Me Off.

"She had never raced last year, so I didn't want to do everything at once," said trainer Allen Jerkens, who actually ran the filly once in December, when asked why he skipped the Kentucky Oaks. "She'll get the worst of the weights on Saturday, but we might as well run if we're going to run in the Acorn."

Dust Me Off breezed five furlongs in 1:01.42 Tuesday morning at Belmont. Mark Guidry, who has been aboard for all of Dust Me Off's four starts, will fly in from Kentucky to ride on Saturday.

Others pointing to the Nassau County are Carson Hollow, Infinite Spirit, Proxy Statement, Vesta, Wilzada, and Wopping. Possible starters include Barbara O'Brien, Lethal Temper, and Nonsuch Bay.

Saarland could make Belmont by fall

Saarland, who finished 10th as the co-second choice in the Kentucky Derby, had a chip surgically removed from his left front ankle Monday morning by Dr. Larry Bramlage at Rood and Riddle in Lexington.

Saarland was scheduled to van over to Bill Harrigan's farm in Lexington, Ky., on Wednesday, where he will do his rehabilitation. Saarland will have two weeks of stall rest and then walk for three weeks before he is able to resume training.

His trainer, Shug McGaughey, said if the ankle is healed, he would put the tack back on Saarland at the end of June or beginning of July. "If everything goes right," McGaughey said, Saarland could return to the races by the Belmont fall meet.

Though McGaughey did not name any races, a potential spot for Saarland's return could be the Jerome Handicap, a one-turn mile race restricted to 3-year-olds, run on Sept. 14. Saarland won his maiden in a one-turn mile race at Belmont last September.

Fast Decision may go in Peter Pan

Fast Decision, a three-quarter-length winner of Saturday's Withers Stakes, could make his next start in the Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes on May 25, trainer Christophe Clement said. Fast Decision, a son of Gulch, is now 3 for 4 for owner Peter Karches.

"The Preakness is unlikely," Clement said. "We'll go with the odds, and the odds are probably with the Peter Pan at the moment."

* Burning Roma, preparing for the Met Mile, worked five furlongs in 1:01.24 Tuesday at Belmont.