Laurel Park-based Xtra Heat received a 128-pound impost for the track’s prestigious filly and mare sprint, the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap-G2, which nearly caused her connections to decline. But after days of posturing and discussion, co-owners Kenneth Taylor and Harry Deitchman and co-owner/trainer John Salzman accepted the burden for their pint-sized filly.
Giving 12-16 pounds to her seven rivals, Xtra Heat shot to the lead and won as she pleased, finishing 23?4 lengths clear of 2001 winner, Prized Stamp. In the race’s previous 51 runnings, only Too Bald had carried more to victory, when toting 129 in 1969.
Two days after the Fritchie, Xtra Heat was crowned champion 3-year-old filly of 2001 at the Eclipse Awards ceremony. The whirlwind continued when the filly boarded a plane to Dubai six days later, with her next goal the $2 million Golden Shaheen-G1.
The hard-knocking dynamo finished third in Dubai in late March to defending champion Caller One. Seven weeks later, she was back to her winning ways, capturing the Grade 2 Genuine Risk Handicap at Belmont Park, and less than a month later, she took the Vagrancy-G2. Xtra Heat won seven of 11 starts that year, was off the board only once (in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint-G1), and had seasonal earnings of $965,485.
Racing lost a legend when news came of the death of Lonesome Glory at age 14. The five-time Eclipse Award winner, who retired at the end of 1999, was steeplechasing’s first millionaire. Wrote Joe Clancy: “If Lonesome Glory were a flat horse he would have been Kelso, John Henry, Cigar, Secretariat. He was that good. That talented. That dynamic. That missed.”
The chestnut gelding, bred by Walter Jeffords Jr. and raced by Jeffords’ widow Kay, died from injuries sustained in a paddock accident at trainer Bruce Miller’s Pennsylvania farm.
Lonesome Glory was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2005, his first year of eligibility.
The Pimlico Special, one of three Grade 1 races in Maryland, was suspended for 2002 when deemed too costly. “Unpleasant, and unfortunate, as it may be, allocating $600,000 to fund one race?–?the Pimlico Special?–?is not a viable prospect, nor a luxury horsemen can afford at this time,” wrote MTHA executive secretary Wayne Wright in The Horsemen’s Newsletter. “Horsemen, dependent on the day-to-day program, will be the ones paying the price.”
Track historian Joe Kelly noted in a letter to the editor: “Traditions come and go without fanfare at old Pimlico. Not even sainted Saratoga can afford to be so casual with its heirlooms.”
The Pimlico Special has had a history of interruptions. Created by Alfred Vanderbilt in 1937, it quickly became a sensation?–?first luring War Admiral, winner of the inaugural running, then becoming the backdrop for one of the most glorified races in history, the Seabiscuit?–War Admiral match race in 1938. But the early era ended after the 1958 running (won by Maryland-bred Vertex).
The race returned in 1988 and its rich history grew in the 1990s, with numerous champions among its contemporary winners, including Cigar, Skip Away, Criminal Type and Devil His Due.
The Special returned in 2003, and was won by that year’s eventual Horse of the Year Mineshaft. Three years later, Invasor (Arg) counted the race as part of his Horse of the Year season.
Not run since 2008, the former Grade 1 will reappear on this year’s Preakness Day card, in place of the William Donald Schaeffer Handicap-G3.