06/12/2002 12:00AM

Xtra Heat never ceases to amaze


ELMONT, N.Y. - The focus of attention was on the Belmont Stakes last weekend and on the outstanding performance of the 70-1 Sarava. But Belmont was the scene of another glittering piece of racing: Xtra Heat's victory under 127 pounds in Sunday's $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap for fillies and mares.

Xtra Heat, the 3-year-old filly champion last season, has had many superb races during her remarkable career, and she carried 128 pounds at Laurel in February to win the Barbara Fritchie Handicap. She excelled in the Vagrancy, however, giving 12 pounds to the distinguished runner-up, Gold Mover, a stakes-winning filly with more than $700,000 in purses to her credit. Despite her weight, the highest successfully carried in the Vagrancy since 1965, Xtra Heat led all the way under Harry Vega to prevail by a neck.

She has 21 victories from 27 starts, plus three seconds and two thirds for earnings of $1,823,305. Not too bad for a filly purchased at the Timonium sales for $5,000.

"We were looking for horses with speed," trainer John Salzman recalled. "She looked like she could run, but of course we had no idea she'd turn out to be a champion."

Salzman has a one-third interest in Xtra Heat, and so do his two partners, Baltimoreans Ken Taylor and Harry Deitchman.

Xtra Heat never ceases to amaze. She was flown to Dubai this spring to compete against colts in the Group 1 Golden Shaheen and did well to finish third. The long trip to Dubai, halfway around the world, knocks out many horses traveling from North America, but Xtra Heat came back after a two-month freshening to win the Genuine Risk at Belmont under 126 pounds and now has added the Vagrancy to her imposing list of souvenirs.

Salzman said he is considering the $400,000 Princess Rooney at Calder on July 13 for Xtra Heat's next start. The six-furlong Princess Rooney is America's richest sprint for fillies and mares and is the highlight of the increasingly popular "Summit of Speed" program, which also includes the $400,000 Smile Sprint Handicap, the $250,000 Azalea Breeders Cup for 3-year-old fillies, and the $250,000 Carry Back for 3-year-olds, all at six furlongs, and the $50,000 Rocket Man Stakes for 2-year-olds and up at two furlongs. Another highlight of the card is an invitational challenge involving Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses at a half-mile with a purse of $50,000.

Calder's Summit of Speed has been attracting horses from all racing areas throughout the U.S. and it wouldn't be surprising to see some of California's many outstanding sprinters coming East to meet Xtra Heat at The Summit. That would be a race worth seeing.