It turns out that the Breeders' Cup Sprint wasn't the last meaningful sprint of the year.
A classy field of seven will run today in the $300,000 Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Laurel, among them four who chased Squirtle Squirt home in last month's Breeders' Cup race at Belmont Park.
The home-court advantage in the six-furlong De Francis definitely belongs to Xtra Heat.
A daughter of Dixieland Heat owned by Kenneth Taylor and trained by John Salzman and a viable candidate for an Eclipse Award as the top 3-year-old filly in the country, Xtra Heat is unbeaten in four starts at Laurel.
In fact, she is a challenge to defeat anywhere. A $5,000 bargain purchase in the spring of last year, Xtra Heat has won 17 of 21 and has lost only once in 11 races at six furlongs. That defeat was in the Breeders' Cup, where she finished half a length behind Squirtle Squirt.
Her main competition figures to come from Caller One, who was a neck behind her in the Breeders' Cup; Kona Gold, the beaten favorite in the Sprint and trying to end a two-race losing streak, and the comeback horse, Early Flyer.
A 3-year-old son of Gilded Time, Early Flyer beat Squirtle Squirt in the seven-furlong Laz Barrera at Hollywood Park on May 28. Chris McCarron will ride the colt for trainer Ron McAnally.
Race of the day: Roman Dancer, who was impressive in the Sunny Slope Stakes at Santa Anita in his most recent start, will try for a repeat in the $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes today, a race that serves as a prep for the Hollywood Futurity. There are other good betting races on the Hollywood Park card, most notably the fourth, sixth and seventh.
Who's hot: Apalachee Ridge. The gray gelding has won two in a row while moving up the ladder and will jump all the way to the $32,000 plateau in search of another in his first race for trainer Bob Hess Jr. in today's seventh race.
Who's not: Heaven. The gelding is a longshot in today's fifth at Golden Gate Fields, but hasn't been on the board in seven starts.
Exotically speaking: A pick four using Diamond Dawn, Coconut Mango, Highly Suspect and Calkins Road in the sixth, Apalachee Ridge and Tillie's Victor in the seventh, singling Roman Dancer in the eighth and Gray Hawk, Romy Mashallah, Gringo Joe and Illegible in the ninth.