Pucker Up Day: full-card Arlington picks and analysis

Today is the final graded stakes races of the summer, with the Pucker Up (GIII) for three-year-old fillies.  That is the only race that will be on the turf today; the others that were originally carded for grass have been moved to the main track for the day.  It is a nice card for early fall at Arlington: three maiden races and three allowance races in addition to the stakes, and even two lower-level claimers for those who (like me) really enjoy them.  There’s a little something for everyone here, and the cool weather makes it a wonderful day to be out at the track.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the card!

Race 1: Maiden special weight ($31,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the synthetic

Selections:  Holy Soldier (3), Gavroche (2), Wild About You (6)

For detailed analysis of this race, read this weekend’s Chicago Railbird.

Since Chicago Railbird was published, Felix the Lion (the original second selection) scratched out of the race.  With that the case, Wild About You (6) is the next best option.  He missed by a neck last out despite being almost two dozen lengths out of the game early.  He probably will not be able to come from that far out of it again given the likely lack of early speed, but he gets a jockey change to the smoking-hot James Graham.  If Graham keeps him a bit closer to the pace, his speed and his known affinity for six furlongs on the poly could get him home here, albeit at a fairly short price.

Race 2: Allowance ($33,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, Illinois-bred, non-winners of $8,800 once other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N2L, six furlongs on the synthetic

Selections: Marvelous Molly (2), Exquisite Lady (1), Canette (5)

Marvelous Molly has a strong record on the polytrack, and has won fairly recently.  With a handful of career N2Ls in this field, a recent win says a lot.  There looks to be a decent amount of pace between Anna’s Alibi, Canette, and Case Cracker; she should get what she needs to close late.  She finished a creditable second at this level last out, in a race that may have been a bit too long for her.  The cut back to six furlongs will help.  Exquisite Lady has shown some early speed, but has also seen success being rated — useful in a race with a good amount of early pace.  She has not tried synthetic in a long time, but was second in her debut (her only try on the poly).  This is a step up in class from the optional claimers she was running at Fairmount, but jockey Tim Thornton should suit her style well and the rail has been good.  Canette comes in here fresh off of her maiden win.  It took a while for the light to come on with her, but she did always show up in the maiden ranks, and appears to have learned how to win.  She switches to jockey James Graham, now the runaway leader in the standings, and has put up two works (including one bullet) since her maiden win.  She should be fresh, sharp, and a threat.  The biggest question for her is pace, since her maiden win was a wire job.  She did show in her earlier maiden runs that she doesn’t wilt if she is just off; she should not be completely out of it if she is outgunned early.

Race 3: $62,500 maiden claiming, two-year-olds, five and a half furlongs over the synthetic

Selections: Chicory Blue (3), Powder Keg (1), Sergios Pride (5)

Chicory Blue is a first-time starter for Hugh Robertson, who wins at 22% with first-time starters and 35% with first-time maiden claimers.  In addition to being from a strong debut barn, he also has a storng first-time starter sire: Yes It’s True, who wins with first-time starters at 14%.  His only half-sibling to race, a Milwaukee Brew filly named Sweet Brew, did win at two.  Finally, James Graham rides.  Powder Keg is well-bred to spring, and by the 12% first-time sire Grand Slam.  His trainer, Wayne Catalano, sends live first-time starters; his first-time runners win at 17%.  He has a worktab stretching through the entire summer, and his moves have been quite sharp throughout.  Sergios Pride dials back from two tries at seven furlongs, and makes The Drop from maiden special to maiden claiming.  He was well-beaten in his maiden special attempts, but did hit some tough customers like Nun The Less and Ike Walker in those ranks.  He won’t likely see that kind of competition here.  Jockey E. T. Baird, who has been winning sprint races at a 29% clip, rides.

Race 4: Allowance ($31,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L, one mile on the synthetic (originally scheduled for turf)

Selections: Ghostly Wonder (7), Mac West (6), Whyruawesome (1)

With the scratch of Laythatpistoldown, Ghostly Wonder is the only speed left in the race.  He has so far failed to live up to the promise he showed in his maiden win last year, but that did come over the polytrack, suggesting he has some ability to run on it.  He gets a jockey switch to E. T. Baird, who rides very well on the lead.  He should end up the longest shot on the board, and with the pace and the jockey he gets one more chance.  If he can’t win with this kind of setup, though, he really needs to drop to the claiming ranks.  Mac West drops from beaten allowance company to N1X, and stretches out to a route for the first time.  His trainer Wayne Catalano does win at 22% with his first-time routers, and a mile should not be out of his range breeding-wise.  He is third off the lay off here, and gets jockey Channing Hill, who rode him to his maiden win two back.  Whyruawesome races for the first time since January.  He was sharp at Arlington last year, winning a maiden special at first asking and then finishing second in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII).  Neither Keeneland nor the tentative early steps of the Derby trail were kind to him, and he went on the shelf.  He has a worktab stretching back to July, not exceedingly fast but at least consistent.  In a short and fairly weak field such as this, with the race moved to polytrack, the horse-for-course factor makes him attractive.  Furthermore, trainer Anne Smith has won two of her last seven when taking a horse blinkers-off, which she does here.

Race 5: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners since March 13 OR N4L, five and a half furlongs on the synthetic

Selections: Hurta (3), Proud Jackson (10), Jesuit Warrior (4)

This race is a strong contender for the most one-way speed ever put into one gate at one time.  Most of the field wilts when they don’t get the early speed, making this ripe for a pace meltdown.  In other words, there are two ways to bet this race: single Hurta (the only one who, after the scratch of Isle of Skye, has shown any recent ability to win from a rated place) or press the “ALL” button.  Hurta comes in from a two and a half month lay for a trainer who does in at 14% off such lays.  He has put up two decent works since his last race, and doesn’t tend to run badly off of layoffs.  Heidi Rose has the call, and Rose won on Hurta at Hawthorne earlier this year, from a little off the pace.  His recent dirt form has been better than his recent poly form, but eight of his twenty career wins have come on synthetic surfaces, showing some ability there.  Proud Jackson has shown the ability to hit the board from a closing spot, though his wins tend to come from right on the front.  The front will be perilous at best, but if new jockey Maria Thornton takes him back while the other horses battle it out up front, he should at least close for a share.  Longshot Jesuit Warrior ships up here from Fairmount, but does have three career wins over synthetic surfaces.  He tends to do his best work on the front, but has at least shown the capacity to battle and not wilt.  Trainer Fred Cornwell does not frequently race at Arlington, but can send some bombs: of his last five shippers, two have won, four have been in the money, and the ROI is +$5.06.  With James Graham aboard, if this one looks good in the paddock, he could be another Cornwell bomb.

Race 6: Allowance ($32,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, non-winners of $8,800 twice other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N3L, 1 1/16 miles on the synthetic (originally scheduled for turf)

Selections: Lassell (2), Town Star (4), Swarm (1)

There is no pace in this race.  None.  This will be a slow, paceless affair, and whoever can run well on the main and default to the lead is going to ahve a good chance to win this.  Enter Lassell.  Lassell has the best polytrack form of the group.  He does come in here first off the layoff, but was a solid contender in state-bred allowances through the winter.  He drew the rail, which has been good.  Lassell is the most likely candidate to lead this bunch on a merry chance; if he looks fit in the paddock, take him and take the price.  Town Star has been in strong form lately, and comes to this race on a two-win streak.  His best races have been on grass, but he has hit the board in one of three starts on poly.  He has an excuse for his fourth place in his last poly start; he was coming in first off of a layoff.  He should be fresher, stronger, and faster here than he was in June.  Swarm is another horse who has been in strong form lately.  He drops in class here, from open allowance optional company to a state-bred allowance.  He was second last out at this distance on poly behind Grand Isle, a horse who has been in very good form this summer.  The time before that, he pulled off a gutsy nose win in a blanket finish over the grass.  He is probably better on turf than he is on the polytrack, but his recent form and the class drop make him a contender here no matter the surface.

Race 7: $7,500 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N3L OR three years old, six furlongs on the synthetic

Selections: Peteizum (3), Takeittothehouse (4), Try a Lemon Drop (6)

Peteizum has had a somewhat worrying case of second-itis this year, and something big needed to change.  He finally gets it here: a class drop from $16,000 company to $7,500 company.  He has been coming close against that better company all meet, and should ahve plenty of speed to contend in this field.  He has also hit the board in four of eight attempts over the polytrack, showing he can handle the surface.  He does change from Santo Sanjur to Rolando Aragon aboard, which is a bit of a downgrade.  But, Aragon has been finding his stride lately, and he gets a seven pound allowance.  He should stalk the pace, and be able to get it done here.  Takeittothehouse is likely to be the speed of the speed, and has the strong trainer/jockey team of Larry Rivelli and E. T. Baird behind him.  he drops in class from $16,000 company last out, and moves back from turf to all-weather.  He did win his only start on polytrack, a win at this distance in the $25,000 N2L ranks earlier this summer.  Try a Lemon Drop drops from $16,000 company last out, after having cleared the N2L condition at the $16,000 level two back.  That win came with Stephanie Slinger aboard, who rides him again today.  Six furlongs is his best dinstance, and he has a win and two seconds in seven starts on the all-weather.  The pace should be honest but probably not bruising, and he succeed if he gets a good stalking trip.

Race 8: Pucker Up Stakes (GIII), three-year-old fillies, 1 1/8 miles on the turf

Selections: Stellaris (8), Kiss Moon (3), Final Redemption (1)

For detailed analysis of this race, read this weekend’s Chicago Railbird.  For Paul Mazur’s perspective on this race, read his preview at Picks and Ponderings.

Race 9: $25,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one mile on the polytrack (originally scheduled for turf)

Selections: Be Playful (4), Giulietta (2), King’s Favor (6)

Be Playful is a second-time starter for Chris Block, who wins with 17% of his first-time starters.  She drops in here from $80,000 state-bred maiden claiming company.  She faltered there, but cuts back in distance and has posted a string of solid workouts since that race.  If she looks good in the paddock and stays near her 10/1 morning line, she is the value in this race.  Giuletta is another second-time starter, this one coming from the Wayne Catalano barn.  Catalano wins with second-time starters at 21%, and second-time routers at 28%.  He was fifth in a washed-out poly mile last time, and should be a little sharper here due to experience.  He also gets a jockey upgrade to Santo Sanjur.  King’s Favor is trying polytrack for the first time, and re-drops from three attempts against maiden special at the Fair Grounds.  Trainer Pavel Vashchenko is decent with horses coming off of such long lays, 18% with a +$2.00 ROI.  His best finish, in which he was fifth beaten just two lengths in his debut, was at this same mile distance against $25,000 maiden claimers, though at two turns on the turf as opposed to one turn on the poly.  He has been working all summer; if he looks fit in the paddock, he could improve at a very good price.

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