The one thing clear about Xtra Heat's future is that the Breeders' Cup Sprint is the target. Whether she races before then or is sold afterward remains to be seen.
The 4-year-old filly stabled at Laurel Park surpassed $2 million in earnings with her most recent victory, a five-length score in last weekend's $150,000 Endine Stakes at Delaware Park. The win merely embellished Xtra Heat's story: A $5,000 auction purchase earns $2,068,305 by winning 23 of 30 races.
Her owners - Marylanders Ken Taylor, Harry Deitchman and John Salzman, also her trainer - must decide whether to run her one time before the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint on Oct. 26 at Arlington Park or to let Salzman train her up to the race.
Then, they must decide whether to place her in the Fasig-Tipton "selected fall mixed" sale Nov. 3 in Lexington, Ky.
Salzman said that he is searching for a race for Xtra Heat before the Breeders' Cup Sprint, in which she finished second last year, but that races for the speedy filly seem to be few and far between.
"I don't really want to go into the Breeders' Cup off a long layoff," Salzman said, "but I will if I have to."
Xtra Heat's gritty performance against the world's fastest horses in last year's Sprint was the leading factor in her being voted the Eclipse Award as outstanding 3-year-old filly. She became the first pure sprinter to win the award.
She has surpassed everybody's expectations, including those of her owners. They hoped to race her a few times and then sell her for a profit.
She has, in effect, been for sale ever since they hauled her home from the Timonium auction.
Buyers expressed interest, but no one ever offered enough. As the victories mounted up, so, too, did her selling price.
If her owners place her in the fall sale, they plan on setting a reserve of $2.2 million. That means if no one bids that high, she doesn't sell and remains the property of her Maryland keepers. Because they're not interested in breeding her, they would probably continue to race her - or try to sell her privately.
Amid all that uncertainty, the Breeders' Cup Sprint looms. Xtra Heat has a splendid example to follow. The Maryland-bred filly Safely Kept finished second in the 1989 Sprint as a 3-year-old. The next year at 4, she won it.
Chips but no break
The three partners of Skeedattle Stable - Willie White, Lou Rehak and Bob Orndorff, Marylanders all - were crestfallen over the diagnosis: fractured right knee, racing career over.
That was the prognosis for Forever Partners, their promising 2-year-old filly, after she was injured finishing second as the favorite Aug. 30 in the Grade I Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga.
But on Friday at the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania, Dr. Dean Richardson operated on Forever Partners and discovered less damage than feared. He removed two chips but found little cartilage damage.
"He said it all went better than he had expected," White said. "He says her prognosis to return to racing is good."
Forever Partners will spend the fall and winter on the farm, and then, if she recovers fully, will return to trainer Tony Dutrow's barn at Laurel in early 2003, White said.
"She's the best horse we've ever owned," White said.
And White and partners own Gin Talking and Case of the Blues. Gin Talking was Maryland-bred Horse of the Year in 2000 when she was a 3-year-old filly.
Retired because of injury, she gave birth this year to her first foal, by Dixieland Band, and is in foal to Royal Academy. Case of the Blues won the Maryland Million Distaff Handicap last year and will attempt to win it again Saturday during the 17th running of the Maryland Million at Pimlico.
Drugging ban appealed
After the Errol Wilson-trained Mabrak was found to have finished second July 26 in a race at Laurel with the illegal medication Methocarbamol in his system, Maryland Racing Commission investigators searched Wilson's barn at Bowie.
They reported finding needles, syringes and two empty vials of Procrit, a trade name for the recently banned blood-doping agent erythropoietin, or EPO.
EPO has ascended to the top of the list of illegal, performance-enhancing drugs believed to be in use at racetrack stables.
Wilson was charged with possessing the banned substance, the first thoroughbred trainer in the country so accused, the Daily Racing Form reported.
Stewards then suspended him for 90 days and recommended to the racing commission that it suspend him an additional 90. Wilson appealed.
A hearing before the commission was scheduled for Sept. 23 but later postponed at the request of Wilson's lawyer. A hearing has not been rescheduled.
Oh Say, the 24-year-old Maryland stallion and one-time outstanding racehorse, was euthanized in late July at Shamrock Farms near Woodbine because of the infirmities of old age, said Don Litz, who managed the stallion. ... The Maryland Racing Commission has tentatively set Oct. 28 as the hearing date at Laurel Park to consider Magna Entertainment Corp.'s proposed purchase of a majority share of the Maryland Jockey Club. Additional information from Magna must be filed with the commission by the end of this month. The hearing date will then be finalized.