Trainers preparing for the $60,000 What A Summer Stakes on Saturday at Laurel Park received a jolt yesterday when the entries came out. Champion Xtra Heat, now a 5-year-old mare but still one of the fastest horses in the world, had been supplemented into the race for $500 by trainer John Salzman.
"I think it's very disturbing," trainer Hamilton Smith said with a laugh.
Smith hoped to have a shot at the top prize with his filly, Gazillion, recent winner of the Squan Song Stakes. "It kind of surprised me she was in there, but she hasn't missed many dances."
Xtra Heat, champion 3-year-old filly in 2001, won 7 of 11 starts last year -- all in stakes races. She finished a disappointing sixth against males in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and was upset in her most recent start by Dat You Miz Blue in the Garland of Roses Handicap on Dec. 14 at Aqueduct. In her brilliant career, the modestly bred Xtra Heat has won 24 of 33 outings and earned nearly $2.3 million.
Salzman continued to train Xtra Heat even after she was sold privately for more than $1 million to the Classic Star Stable following the Breeders' Cup. He has been targeting the Grade II $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap, a seven-furlong sprint on Feb. 15 at Laurel, and appeared to be training Xtra Heat for the race.
Salzman admitted yesterday he planned all along to run Xtra Heat in the What A Summer, but didn't initially nominate her because he worried no trainer would be willing to take her on. Sneaking her in late by supplemental nomination guarantees the race will be run, even if most of the seven other runners scratch out.
"If I nominate, how many [others] would be in the race?" Salzman asked. "They can scratch them all now if they want."