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Serving as a feeder into the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (G1) at Keeneland Race Course next month, Saturday’s Pucker Up Stakes (G3) at Arlington Park drew a full field of 12. In recent years, the Pucker Up has been won by some excellent sophomore turf fillies, including: Marketing Mix (2011), Hot Cha Cha (2010), Dreaming of Anna (2007), Vacare (2006) and Ticker Tape (2004).

Surprisingly, recent Virginia Oaks (G3) winner Volcat is the only graded or group stakes winner amongst the dozen, but there are several promising types, including Euro imports and top two morning-line choices Angegreen (7-2) and Miss Cato (9-2). Other viable contenders include Treasured Up, third in the Regret Stakes (G3) two starts back at Churchill Downs; and Leading Astray and Freedom Reigns, the one-two finishers, respectively, in the swifter of the two runnings of the locally run Hatoof Stakes.

Two divisions of the Hatoof Stakes were run on the Arlington Million Stakes (G1) undercard, and the one won by Leading Astray was more than a second faster than the one taken down by the longshot Julia’s Star. The winner of three straight Arlington turf races in advance of her appearance in the second division of the local Hatoof Stakes, Freedom Reigns would uncork a huge late rally, only to fall a nose short to Leading Astray, and she's since fired a bullet workout. The presence of a few contending invaders should help inflate the price.

Imported from England early summer, Miss Cato finished a respectable fourth in the American Oaks Stakes (G1) at Hollywood Park in her initial stateside start. Rated from farther off the pace when shortened up and dropped down into a first-level allowance race at Del Mar, she flew home late and just missed. She arrived early to acclimate, and must be considered armed and dangerous.

In order to call upon Mike Smith to pilot, trainer Graham Motion must think he has a serious filly in Angegreen, who most recently was seen finishing second of 13 in an Italian Group 2 race.

Treasured Up finished a solid third behind the accomplished Centre Court in the Regret on Churchill grass, but followed up with a clunker as the favorite in the Arlington Oaks (G3) on the synthetic Polytrack surface. Perhaps the return to turf will awaken her.

Volcat won the Virginia Oaks, but that race is tough to gauge. It looked weak going in, and the visuals of the actual running weren’t impressive, but take note that the 2-3-4 finishers have all since returned to win.

My selections:

Freedom Reigns

Miss Cato

Angegreen

Leading Astray

$175,000 Pucker Up Stakes (G3)

Saturday, Arlington Park, Race 8, 4:44 p.m. CDT

3-year-old Fillies, 1 1/8 Miles, Turf

PP Horse

Jockey

Weight

Trainer

ML Odds

1. Ann of the Dance (KY)

M. Mena

118

W M Catalano

30-1

2. Treasured Up (KY)

T. Thornton

118

A M Stall Jr.

6-1

3. Zapper Belle (KY)

R.B. Homeister Jr.

118

D C Peitz

30-1

4. Soonerette (OK)

T. Riggs

120

D K Von Hemel

20-1

5. Dame Marie (KY)

F. Geroux

118

E Kenneally

15-1

6. Rare Event (KY)

J.K. Court

118

V H Oliver

15-1

7. Freedom Reigns (IRE)

J. Graham

118

D Matthews

6-1

8. Volcat (KY)

R. Albarado

124

K G McPeek

6-1

9. Angegreen (ITY)

M.E. Smith

118

H G Motion

7-2

10. Leading Astray (IL)

E.E. Perez

120

C M Block

6-1

11. Julia's Star (KY)

S.O. Madrid

120

J Scott

15-1

12. Miss Cato (GB)

F.C. Torres

120

R L Attfield

9-2

Image Description

Joe Kristufek

The face of ABR's "Racing 101", Joe Kristufek is a self-proclaimed horse racing "ambassador," and fan development has been his passion since the moment he took his first job in the industry.

Kristufek is the morning-line maker for Arlington Park and Kentucky Downs and he serves as the handicapper and racing writer for the Daily Herald newspaper. 

Kristufek has developed and executed several horse racing-related, fan-education projects both online and onsite and he is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. 

He has co-owned five horses in partnership and is the process of developing an ownership group of his own. Kristufek is also becoming an increasing presence on the tournament scene. 

Kristufek was the on-air talent for Hawthorne's between-race presentation and replay shows in the 1990s, and served as a on-air host and content coordinator for The Racing Network in 2000-2001. He was the owner, producer and host of popular horse racing magazine show Horsin' Around TV, airing 85 episodes from 2003-2005 on Fox Sports Chicago and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

A beer and indie/alternative music snob, Joe is a Chicago Bulls season ticket holder and there aren't too many people who can keep up with him on a billards table. 

 

Image Description

Joe Kristufek

The face of ABR's "Racing 101", Joe Kristufek is a self-proclaimed horse racing "ambassador," and fan development has been his passion since the moment he took his first job in the industry.

Kristufek is the morning-line maker for Arlington Park and Kentucky Downs and he serves as the handicapper and racing writer for the Daily Herald newspaper. 

Kristufek has developed and executed several horse racing-related, fan-education projects both online and onsite and he is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. 

He has co-owned five horses in partnership and is the process of developing an ownership group of his own. Kristufek is also becoming an increasing presence on the tournament scene. 

Kristufek was the on-air talent for Hawthorne's between-race presentation and replay shows in the 1990s, and served as a on-air host and content coordinator for The Racing Network in 2000-2001. He was the owner, producer and host of popular horse racing magazine show Horsin' Around TV, airing 85 episodes from 2003-2005 on Fox Sports Chicago and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

A beer and indie/alternative music snob, Joe is a Chicago Bulls season ticket holder and there aren't too many people who can keep up with him on a billards table. 

 

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