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Thursday, October 24, 2002
Contact: Notes Team (847) 385-7472/7473
Fillies Present Strong Challenge To Breeders' Cup Yet Again
Though few fillies have tried males in the four Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships in which such matchups are possible, they've done remarkably well when they have. That's been particularly so in the NAPA Breeders' Cup Sprint, in which fillies and mares have won three and scored five seconds and a fourth.
This year, three fillies have been entered in the Sprint, and one of them, 4-year-old Xtra Heat, already has proven her credentials by finishing a gritty second to Squirtle Squirt after setting all the pace last year. She was posted the 5-1 co-second choice with Swept Overboard and behind 5-2 Orientate for this year's running.
The others are 6-year-old Kalookan Queen, most recently a winner against males in the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap, at 8-1, and 3-year-old Carson Hollow, winner of the Floral Park Handicap in her final prep race, at 20-1.
Sophomore filly Dress To Thrill, four for four in England this year, will take on a full field of males, including Europe's vaunted Rock of Gibraltar, in the Mile.
The Sprint, however, is attracting more attention because of the long list of accomplishments by this year's trio of entrants and the preceding 18 years of the race's history.
Of the three entrants, Xtra Heat has the biggest national audience because of the Cinderella story she has written over three seasons of racing. Bought for a mere $5,000 out of the auction ring, she has gone on to win 24 of 31 starts with $2,223,305 in earnings.
After her thrilling stretch duel with Squirtle Squirt last year, she faced males one more time in 2001, taking third against them in the DeFrancis Memorial, before she got a break after a 13-race season. For her efforts, she was voted Eclipse champion 3-year-old filly.
This year Xtra Heat goes into the Sprint off nine starts, seven of them wins, including last time out against males in Keeneland's Phoenix Breeders' Cup. Of her two defeats, one was a third against males in the Golden Shaheen after a long trip to Dubai, and the second was a surprising loss to females in the Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder.
Kalookan Queen hasn't been off the board in seven starts this season, and two of her four wins, in the Ancient Title and Potrero Grande handicaps, were against males.
The Sprint will be Carson Hollow's first race against male rivals.
The past history of top fillies in the Sprint has been just as exciting as the story Xtra Heat wrote last year.
The first distaff victory came when Very Subtle scored a wire-to-wire 4-length victory in 1987. In doing so, she handed eventual Eclipse champion sprinter Groovy his second consecutive upset in the Sprint. The filly returned the next year to finish fourth in the race
The next female to win was Safely Kept in 1990. Like Xtra Heat and Very Subtle, she set the early pace, but then she was passed by Dayjur after a stretch battle. She regained the lead when Dayjur jumped a shadow and Safely Kept dug in to win by a neck. Safely Kept also finished second to Dancing Spree in 1989.
Desert Stormer was dismissed as a member of the mutual field in 1995, but she too took the early lead and held it all the way to defeat Mr. Greeley by a neck at 14-to-1 odds.
Other second-place finishes by fillies and mares in the Sprint include back-to-back efforts by Meafara in 1992 and '93, and Honest Lady in 2000.
There have been fillies who won the Mile and Turf though none has scored in the Classic.
Royal Heroine won the first BC Mile at Hollywood Park in 1984. The great French filly Miesque won back-to-back Miles in 1987 and '88 and Ridgewood Pearl scored in 1995.
Pebbles, an English shipper who liked stout in her feed, won the 1985 Turf, and Miss Alleged won the same race in 1991.
Jolypha finished third in the Classic in 1992.
Xtra Heat's trainer John Salzman has pondered the success of fillies in the Sprint in the days leading up to this year's running.
"All those fillies have run well. I was looking through the history and saw that," he said. "I've got no idea why. But my filly is just an exceptional filly to be around, (racing against males) doesn't bother her."
He seemed surprised Xtra Heat was facing two other fillies in the Breeders' Cup. "I guess everybody else sees that (her success) and is giving it a shot."
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