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Pucker Up!

Since 1961 the Pucker Up Stakes (Grade 3) has been run on the expansive and beautiful Arlington turf course at 9 furlongs.  The race was named after; um… let me think… OH YEAH, Pucker Up (duh) – a champion mare who won half of her races and finished in the money 28 of 32 total races.  Two of those wins were in the Arlington Matron and Washington Park Handicaps in 1957 and therefore she has a strong connection to Chicago.  

I see we have a real good, and full, field of three-year-old fillies set to run in the 2011 version of the race.  At initial glance I think that Trac N Jam and Marketing Mix have excellent changes of winning.  Let’s take a closer look at the field for the Pucker Up Stakes which will be run this Saturday in the 9th race at Arlington.

Race 9 – The Pucker Up Stakes

#5 – Summer Savory (3-1)

This daughter of South African horse, Horse Chestnut, Summer Savory is coming off of a disappointing finish at Woodbine in her last race, although that race was only one mile in distance and she seems to prefer the longer races.  If you throw out that race her turf record is quite good with two victories on Arlington’s turf course and a second place finish in the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks.  There is class-a-plenty here as this filly should contend.  

#3 – Marketing Mix (7-2)

Canadian-bred Marketing Mix is coming off a break since 7/31/11 where she won her only turf outing at Woodbine closing in from the back of the pack to win the Wonder Where.  In that race she also defeated a horse who I think is a very good contender by the name of Spooky Kitten.  Marketing Mix has been working out very well at Arlington since her break and to put more probabilities in her favor, the Proctor/Alvarado combination is winning at a sizzling 37%!  She takes a big jump in class here, but winners win…

#7 – Trac N Jam (5-1)

This former winner of 3 in a row at one point finally lost a race in her last at Saratoga.  She tried going up against tough Grade 2 company (against the likes of Hungry Island and Kathmanblu) where the pace was slow, the jockey lost his whip, the turf was yielding, and she ultimately finished 5th.  Don’t let that performance fool you however.  Trac N Jam loves the Chicago grass oval where she has won 2 of 3 times and she just seems to like turf in general as she has 3 wins on the surface.  She should be closing hard at the end with Marketing Mix which will make it an exciting finish.

#8 – Angelica Zapata (10-1)
Florent Geroux gets the mount for this filly that has only run on the grass one other time.  That race was a second place finish in a minor stakes race at Ellis Park on 7/23/11.  Her other attempts against Grade 3 company have been less than stellar however and she hasn’t won a race since January.  Still, the work pattern is decent and she may like the turf again.  

#12 – Triune (10-1)

This granddaughter of Theatrical should help set some of the pace in this race, but she also has not been running all that well as of late.  So do we throw her out here?  Not necessarily as she shows some of a pattern which I really like:  the improving three-year-old.  Her Beyers and finishing positions have improved over her last two starts.  Based on my own theories she could fire here, although against this company it could be a tough task.  She has also struggled against graded stakes company.

#9 – Don’t Tell Sophia (12-1)

This filly seems to be able to run and do well on any surface.  Although she has only run three times in her short career, she has hit the board on polytrack, dirt, and also turf!  Her best win was against winners on the dirt at Hoosier Park with a victory by over 8 lengths!  Still, she is also taking a huge jump in class and I’m not sure if it will be too much for her or not.  

#4 – Love Dare (15-1)

Shipping in from Louisiana, Love Dare is coming off a pair of lifetime top Beyers of 85 and a couple of good performances against tougher company.  Yet, she has never finished off of the board while on the grass either.  Can she handle the longer distance?  One would think that the connections wouldn’t ship her up to Arlington if they didn’t think she had a chance, right?

#11 – Happy Choice (15-1)

Well, well, well.  This is the horse that would have won the Pick 4 on Million day for Zipse, Dick, and me.  She charged hard at the end and just lost to Santina Dond (also running in this race) by a neck in the Hatoof.  Ah, the great sport of horse racing.  She hasn’t won on the turf yet, but also hasn’t finished off the board.  

Rounding out the field:
#2 – Santina Dond (20-1) Hatoof winner on Million day with the upset.
#6 – Seans Silverdancer (20-1) local product 4th in the Hatoof.
#10 – Barbies M (20-1) improving three-year-old could surprise here.
#13 – Artemus Kitten (20-1) never off the board on turf.
#14 – Maid Of Heaven (20-1) also never off the board on turf and could also surprise.
#1 – Sea Level Drive (30-1) huge win in last, never has been on turf.  

My choice:

I’m having trouble separating between Trac N Jam, Summer Savory, and Marketing Mix and I think either could hit the wire first.  I expect Santina Dond, Love Dare, and Triune at or near the lead at least through half.  If they can get others to chase at a bit of a quicker pace, then my selections may have an easier shot at closing in at the end.  For a longshot alert, I wouldn’t discount Barbies M or Maid Of Heaven.

Who is your choice?  You better Pucker Up!


What the Horse Racing Nation is saying about Pucker Up!...

Yet another full field....now THATS awesome! Many never out of the $$$ and seems like that alone sets the stage nicely. How about sev of these fillies too? Pretty classy field! Sure the owner of the leading lady will pucker right up in the winners circle ;)
I like Trac N Jam as well, but there are several interesting fillies in here ... how about Don't Tell Sophia as a longshot?
Oh, How I Love Trac N Jam!


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 (Whoa - the DARK HORSE)
Greetings and welcome to my "dark" blog!  I have been a fan of horse racing since I was about 12 years old.  Growing up in Minnesota, my dad would take me and my brothers to Canterbury Downs and I would practically beg to go every weekend!!  I made my first "big" score there hitting the win, place, and exacta in the same race at age 14 (pulled in $84 with horses named Railroad Red and Racers Dream!).  I also had a poster in my bedroom of Lost Code winning the 1987 St. Paul Derby!

I followed racing all through the remainder of high school and college in Illinois, paying close attention to the likes of Lost Code, Alysheba, Cryptoclearance, Risen Star, Sunday Silence, and Tabasco Cat.  I spent every possible moment at Arlington Park with my dad, taking time to develop computer programs (on Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS) to try to find patterns and handicap races more accurately.  My dad taught me a lot about handicapping races, paying particular attention to class moves!

I'm more of a fan of racing now than ever before, and have made a lot of friends in, and because of, the industry.  For that I am eternally grateful!  Once being deemed the second best racing ambassador in Chicago (hey I've been called worse),
I now reside in the Richmond, Virginia area and will be covering many different aspects of racing - DARK HORSE STYLE!  My goal for this blog is to get people more interested in horse racing while focusing on my home(s) away from home, the race tracks of America! My favorite tracks are Arlington, Colonial, Canterbury, Del Mar, Gulfstream, Hawthorne, and Keeneland!
At the end of the day though, I'm just a regular guy who loves horse racing a whole lot.   It is my honor to be a part of the Horse Racing Nation team and I truly hope you enjoy this blog. 

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