08/07/2002 11:00PM

Xtra Heat should have easy time with these


In the first soft spot Xtra Heat has found in several months, she towers over a field of four hugely overmatched fillies and mares in Saturday's $125,000 Straight Deal Breeders' Cup Handicap at Laurel Park.

Xtra Heat's rivals, Folly Dollar, Skip the Print, Winter Leaf, and Outstanding Info, all appear to be running for second money in the seven-furlong Straight Deal, an ungraded race.

Xtra Heat, last year's champion 3-year-old filly, carries 126 pounds and gives away 16 to 18 pounds to her competition. Last year, she won the Straight Deal, which was run at Pimlico, by six lengths and equaled the track record.

Since winning the ungraded Interborough Handicap by 5 1/2 lengths on Jan. 1 at Aqueduct, Xtra Heat, who is based at Laurel, has been running in some very tough spots, while packing plenty of weight.

In February, she won the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie under 128 pounds. Five weeks later, Xtra Heat raced in Dubai against males and finished third in the Grade 1 Golden Shaheen.

After her journey to the Middle East, Xtra Heat won the Grade 2 Genuine Risk with 126 pounds on her back and the Grade 2 Vagrancy, while toting 127. Her win margins in those races were a length or less.

In her last start on July 13, she finished second in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney, beaten a half-length by Gold Mover, who carried 115 pounds, 12 fewer than Xtra Heat.

Xtra Heat's trainer and co-owner, John Salzman, said he wants to go easier on his filly and that's where the Straight Deal fit in. Salzman's main goal for Xtra Heat, a winner of 21 of 28 starts, is the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Arlington Park on Oct. 26 and he doesn't want to arrive in Chicago with a worn-out filly.

Leading up to last year's Sprint, Salzman ran Xtra Heat in some easy spots in Delaware and Maryland, including the Straight Deal. She ran the race of her lifetime in the Sprint and finished second, beaten a half-length by Squirtle Squirt, last year's champion sprinter.

"This race fits into what we wanted," Salzman said. "She's been running hard each time and carrying that package. I could have run her in that $100,000 race at Saratoga [the Grade 3 Honorable Miss], but that was like a Grade 2 and we would have been giving away almost as much weight."

Harry Vega, Xtra Heat's regular rider this year, has the mount. Xtra Heat, who is like a rocket out of the starting gate, drew post 3.

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