2016 Pucker Up Stakes Preview

This race is named after Pucker Up, the 1957 Champion Older Female Horse.  Owned by Dan and Ada Rice (who campaigned 1965 Kentucky Derby winner Lucky Debonair) and trained by Jimmy Conway, she went on a tear at age four.  At Arlington, she beat her own sex in the Arlington Matron.  Out at Washington Park, she took on the boys in the Washington Park Handicap and emerged victorious.  The daughter of Olympia also took her form out of the Chicago area, winning the Beldame Handicap at Belmont that year.

Arlington has carded a race in Pucker Up’s honour since 1961.  It was originally run at its current nine-furlong distance, though it was twice shortened to a mile and a sixteenth (1974, 1975) and twice lengthened to a mile and three sixteenths (1979, 1986).  2013 saw the triumph of I’m Already Sexy, who is now a five-year-old mare, still a fan favourite, and still winning graded stakes races.  The race is often used as a prep race for the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (GI) at Keeneland in the fall.  Three Pucker Up winners have gone on to win the QEII: Ticker Tape (2004), Vacare (2006), and Hot Cha Cha (2009).

All selections are for turf only.

Race 10: Pucker Up Stakes (GIII), three-year-old fillies, one and one eighth miles over the turf, post time 5:52pm CDT

The Pucker Up drew a full field of fourteen, and it’s a wide-open race.  With that preface, why not take a price on a horse who is bred for this, who loves the course, and gets a solid turf rider in the irons.  NOBODY’S FAULT comes in second off the lay, and makes the second start of her three-year-old year.  She faced older in a 1 1/16 mile allowance at the end of the Million Preview day card, and held safe from fellow Pucker Up entrant FITPITCHER.  On pace, she should be able to settle of the pace most likely set by MOMS CHOICE, and make her rally in time.  She is trained by Chris Block, who has won this race twice before — with Vacare, who is NOBODY’S FAULT’s half sister, as well as with Illinois-bred Leading Astray.  NOBODY’S FAULT also gets strong turf rider Flavien Prat in the irons.  She needs to take another step forward to win this, but at anywhere near her 20/1 morning line (likely to hold, given the field size and her inexperience) NOBODY’S FAULT is the right price to bet she will take that step forward.

NOBLE BEAUTY drops in class here from the Belmont Oaks (GI) last out.  The likes of Catch a Glimpse and Time and Motion proved to be too much for her, but she drops to a more reasonable class level here.  She also cuts back to a mile and an eighth, a distance at which she finished a fine second in the Regret (GIII) two starts back.  NOBLE BEAUTY also comes from connections you can trust: top turf trainer Chad Brown and skilled Arlington turf rider Florent Geroux.  She should be tracking from about midpack, but showed an ability to rally into a pace that was not particularly quick in the Regret.  This should work to NOBLE BEAUTY’s benefit.  MOMS CHOICE also gets a long look.  She looks to be the speed of the speed in this race, and everyone else who has shown some speed has also shown a rating gear.  This gives her a good chance at an advantage.  MOMS CHOICE also comes in third off the lay for trainer Larry Rivelli, a 26% winner in that circumstance.  It will be her first try in stakes company this season, but she has acquitted herself well enough in allowance company, and developed into the sort of horse who would be competitive against this set assuming she can transfer that form from turf to poly.  And, she does have back form on grass.  Though this will be MOMS CHOICE’s first turf start at age three, she finished second in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies last year, showing some aptitude for the green stuff.

Selections:

#2 NOBODY’S FAULT (20/1)

#11 NOBLE BEAUTY (3/1)

#8 MOMS CHOICE (8/1)

Longshot:  #14 HAVANA DREAM (12/1) steps into graded stakes company for the first time.  She just missed last out in the tougher division of the TaWee Stakes at Indiana Grand, going a flat mile.  This will be her first try going a mile and an eighth, but being by Quality Road out of a French Deputy mare, she has a shot to get the mile and an eighth.  And, she was solid in her one try going a mile and a sixteenth at Churchill, just leaving herself too much to do, too late.  HAVANA DREAM got a run going a bit earlier in the TaWee last out, a positive sign.  She may need a bit of pace help, but if one of the more versatile sorts gets tied up with MOMS CHOICE on the front end, she could get the setup she needs to be a threat.

***

You can take “Picks & Ponderings” with you anytime, anywhere. You can get Twitter updates @picksponderings for on-scene reports from Arlington International Racecourse. And you can get “Picks and Ponderings” in your e-mail by typing your email address in the box and clicking “Create Subscription.” It’s a FREE service, and you’ll never get any unwanted spam.

Leave a comment