Updated on 09/16/2011 8:51AM

Xtra Heat still playing the heavy


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The remarkable Xtra Heat is back in New York for the first time since winning Belmont Park's Vagrancy Handicap on June 9 under 127 pounds. A winner of $2,223,305 and 24 races, Xtra Heat, a 4-year-old daughter of Dixieland Heat, once again carries 127 pounds and will concede as many as 15 pounds to her opponents in the $`75,000 Garland of Roses Handicap at six furlongs on Saturday.

In nine runnings of the Garland of Roses, the highest weight successfully carried was Phone the Doctor's 119 pounds in 1996, which gives you some idea of the respect in which Xtra Heat is held.

It has been an eventful six months since the occasion of her last visit. First, she changed hands. The original management team of Ken Taylor, Harry Deitchman, and trainer John Salzman, who purchased her for $5,000 at the Maryland 2-year-old sales, sold her privately to the ClassicStar group headed by David Plummer for $1.5 million. The sale took place after the Breeders' Cup Sprint in which she finished sixth against the world's fastest colts.

"She got cut up pretty good," Salzman said the other day from his headquarters in Laurel, Md. "She was one of the horses who didn't handle the Arlington track and she kept hitting herself. She was only beaten five lengths by world-class horses, and it wasn't a bad effort.

"She's training good," Salzman continued." She's ready to run. She doesn't seem interested in off time and is happiest when competing. The Garland of Roses won't be easy. That is a lot of weight to give away, but she needs a race at this point."

Plans call for Xtra Heat to make another appearance in Laurel's Barbara Fritchie in February, a race she won last winter carrying 128 pounds, and then fly to Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen in March.

"She went to Dubai last year," Salzman said "but it was a hasty trip and we weren't ready. She never changed leads through the stretch and finished third. She will do better this time."

Stronger filly program in New York

The New York Racing Association has taken bold steps to strengthen its 3-year-old filly racing in the spring, offering a $2 million bonus for a sweep of the Mother Goose, the Coaching Club American Oaks, and the Alabama. In addition, the purse for the nine-furlong Mother Goose has been enhanced by $50,000 to $300,000 and the purse for the 12-furlong CCA Oaks was increased from $350,000 to $500,000. The 10-furlong Alabama remains at $750,000.

It will take a versatile filly to sweep, but that is the basis of the bonus arrangement. American racing has catered to speed for too long and as a result there is a serious lack of stamina in our bloodstock. This action by NYRA is a rare example of attempting to deal with the situation and is to be applauded.

Because there are limited opportunities at 1 1/2 miles, many horsemen have been reluctant to try their fillies in the CCA Oaks. Now the prize is worth some risk, and we look forward to an increased level of competition in the 3-year-old filly division.