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Xtra Heat

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Xtra Heat (Lydia Williams photo)
Xtra Heat
Induction Year: 
2015
Foaled: 
2000
Breeder: 
P. McLean, Sr., P. McLean, Jr., M. McLean, P. Geringa, Jr., et al
Owner: 
Ken Taylor, Harry Deitchman, John Salzman, Sr.; ClassicStar Stable
Trainer: 
John Salzman, Sr.
Sire: 
Dixieland Heat
Dam: 
Begin
Damsire: 
Hatchet Man
Career Years: 
2000-2003
Starts: 
35
First: 
26
Second: 
5
Third: 
2
Earnings: 
$2,389,635.00

Tab Wrapper

Bio

Sprinters, as a rule, aren’t asked to carry their speed very far, just very fast. Few were faster or more successful on the racetrack during the first decade of the 21st century, male or female, than champion filly Xtra Heat.

 

In the late spring of 2000, Ken Taylor went to the Timonium Fairgrounds in central Maryland to find what his partner and trainer John Salzman, Sr. liked to call useful horses — modestly bred, durable and above all affordable, the kind that fill entry boxes and earn a steady paycheck.

 

Xtra Heat seemed to fit the bill. She was by a graded stakes winner by Dixieland Heat out of the mare Begin, who won five career races, but none beyond the allowance ranks. Begin’s sire, Hatchet Man, captured the Grade 1 Widener Handicap in 1976.

 

During course of her four-year career, Xtra Heat was worse than third only twice in 35 starts that included 26 wins, 25 of them in stakes, a modern distaff record. Ten of those victories came in graded stakes in Delaware, Kentucky, New York and her home base of Maryland, banking nearly $2.4 million in purse earnings.

 

“She was a runner from the day we got her,” Salzman said. “You could tell she was a nice filly. She took us to Dubai. We went everywhere with her and she was always on the front line.”

 

It was timing that brought Xtra Heat to her connections, including a third partner, Harry Deitchman, and luck that let them keep her. Purchased for just $5,000, Salzman and Taylor never got the chance to vet Xtra Heat before loading her on a van for the short trip to Laurel Park. It turned out she had what is known as an ODC lesion, a cartilage flap at the end of bones that can develop during the growth stages of young horses. When left untreated, the lesions can lead to joint arthritis.

 

“We bought three horses that day. The first two, we went to the depository to look at them and make sure they were okay, but we didn’t have time to look at Xtra Heat,” Taylor said. “We had to make a decision of whether or not to take her. If we had seen the ODC lesion we probably would have given her back. It showed up two races later … and she won 23 races with it. I guess it didn’t make much difference.”

 

Luck, or fate, intervened when Xtra Heat made her first start a month after being sold in a five-furlong maiden race at Laurel with a purse of $15,000. Entered for a $25,000 claiming tag, Xtra Heat beat favored Frosty Rox by a neck for the first of six consecutive victories to open her career.

 

“When we ran her for $25,000, trainer Scott Lake — he’s a friend of mine — had a claim slip in for her. He went to lunch and forgot to put the slip in before time ran out,” Taylor said. “The horse he had we beat and she never ran for a claim again. And, we’re still friends.”

 

Xtra Heat ran exclusively in stakes company for the remainder of her career, earning her first graded victory in the 2000 Astarita at Belmont Park. She finished 10th in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, the lone loss in nine juvenile starts that included seven stakes triumphs.

 

As brilliant as her 2-year-old season was, it was merely a glimpse into what Xtra Heat’s sophomore campaign brought. Though speed was her greatest asset, having an oversized heart in an undersized body was her secret weapon. A shade under 15 hands, she stood tall against her competition throughout 2001 even, perhaps especially, in defeat.

 

Xtra Heat raced 13 times at 3, winning nine stakes, four of them graded, topped by the Grade 1 Prioress at Belmont Park. Salzman took her back to Long Island to face males in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, where she drew post 1 on a day when the rail was dead. Despite the boys and the bias, jockey Jorge “Chop Chop” Chavez had Xtra Heat in front when the field turned for home and still there until passed by Squirtle Squirt — the beneficiary of a perfect trip and an opportune opening — in deep stretch. Sent off at 18-1, she lost by a half-length.

 

“She was the fastest filly I ever saw, even when she lost the Breeders’ Cup in New York,” Taylor said. “Chop Chop said he almost got left on her. She was running against the boys on a track that wasn’t to her liking. Now they’ve got a girls’ race, of course, but everybody talks about that. She was the real deal. She was a beast, a real beast.”

 

Xtra Heat capped her 2001 campaign by facing the boys one more time in the DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park, leading most of the way before grudgingly finishing third. Her season earned her the Eclipse Award as for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly.

 

In 2002, Xtra Heat won seven stakes in 11 starts, five of them graded, including the first of back-to-back victories in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap. Five of her wins came after traveling across the globe for the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, where she finished third as the favorite.

 

Consigned to Fasig-Tipton’s Kentucky Fall Mixed Sale after a sixth-place finish in her return to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Xtra Heat drew a bid of $1.7 million but did not meet her reserve and was later sold privately to David Plummer’s ClassicStar for $1.5 million.

 

ClassicStar brought Xtra Heat back in 2003 with Salzman remaining as her trainer and she won her only two starts, capped by the defense of her Barbara Fritchie title — a victory that moved her past 1970s champion and fellow Hall of Famer Susan’s Girl for the most added-money wins by a filly or mare in modern times.

 

“I never thought in my life, and I’ve been buying horses for a long time, that I would ever have a horse of that quality, to win that many stakes races, and cost $5,000,” Taylor said. “It’s hard to even imagine. Being elected to the Hall of Fame is as big as it gets. As far as horse racing’s concerned, it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m good.”

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