Saturday, September 6, 2014

Arlington Barn Notes: Saturday, September 6, 2014

                                Contact: Michael Adolphson
(847) 385-7558
Barn Notes:  Saturday, September 6, 2014       
In Today’s Notes: 
  • Vance Leaning toward Arlington Return with Kiss Moon
  • Competitive Field Shaping up for Pucker Up
        Lost in the jubilant buzz of Arlington Million Day XXXII and the shock of Hardest Core’s unexpected feel-good story come true was a race a mere half-hour later which featured a stakes performance more than worthy of note.  The second division of the $75,000 Hatoof Stakes was expected to be a competitive affair, but Carl Pollard’s Kiss Moon put such to rest in mid-stretch with a burst of acceleration and then comfortably keeping Curtis Green’s charging Maria Maria at bay.  Since that performance – which earned her a substantial 105 Equibase Speed Figure – the filly has recovered well, according to conditioner David Vance, and is probable to return to Arlington International Racecourse for the traditional follow-up to the Hatoof – the Grade III $150,000 Pucker Up on Sept. 13. 
“She’s doing fine,” Vance reported.  “She had a little work Sunday and will have another this Sunday or Monday and then we’ll wait a little and see what the best thing is to do.  We want to see what happens between the (Pucker Up) and (the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf) – but that’s for older horses.  I’m hoping for less horses and firmly believe you increase your chances in a smaller field – and there might be less horses at Arlington than Kentucky Downs.  We’ll probably enter both spots.”
Well regarded enough earlier this year to run in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks – in which she finished last of 12 – the versatile Kentucky-bred daughter of Malibu Moon was an excellent second in the Grade II Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park prior to that on the dirt and a winner on Polytrack first out at Turfway Park last December.  Previous to her Hatoof win, she was a dull sixth in the sloppy off-the-turf Indiana Grand Stakes and was a troubled fourth behind James Miller’s Wayne Catalano-trained adjudged winner Aurelia’s Belle in the grassy Grade III Regret Stakes in June at Churchill Downs.  Aurelia’s Belle initially finished second, was elevated to the win and is also aiming toward the Pucker Up. 
“She had a couple bad luck races with this and that going wrong,” Vance said.  “At Churchill (in the Regret), my mare got the worst of that race and got turned sideways when Catalano’s filly got bothered too.  There’s not much of a difference between the two of them. Throw out the Indiana race.  I thought she would handle the mud, but she sure didn’t.  She’s more strictly turf now and she ran a big race last time and got a big number.”
As to the veteran trainer’s next move with his star filly, he is tentatively leaning toward a return trip.  “I prefer to run against 3-year-olds around two turns,” he explained.  “(Jockey Robby) Albarado might only be able to ride her at Kentucky Downs, though – but might make the trip to Arlington – we’re not sure yet.  We finally found a jockey who understands her and knows how to ride her.”
With so many variables hindering on the decision process, there is one constant – if Kiss Moon returns, she will have the stage to herself with the only stakes race of the day and final graded event of the meet.  A move forward in form for the filly could be the catalyst for even greater accomplishments in months – and seasons – to come.
“If everything is right for her, she will run nine furlongs as well as eight and a half,” Vance said.  “Catalano’s (Aurelia’s Belle) and Stidham’s fillies (Stellaris and Helen Kathleen) will be tough and it’ll be a tough race.  We’ll only have one or two more starts before the end of the season and everything has to fall into place – but my filly will be ready to run on the 13th.”
        A fleet of proficient sophomore turf fillies have nominated to comprise what looks to be a highly competitive renewal of the Grade III $150,000 Pucker Up next Saturday, September 13.  Led by the Kentucky-based winners of each division of the $75,000 Hatoof Stakes on Arlington Million Day – G. Watts Humphrey, Jr.’s Annulment and Carl Pollard’s Kiss Moon – the 1 1/8-miles event could produce an initial graded stakes victory for either filly.
David Vance-trained Kiss Moon, in particular, was impressive in the 1 1/16-miles Hatoof – winning a full two seconds faster than her earlier counterpart – and should receive a lot of support if she chooses to run on Saturday.  Annulment – a hard-trying, game and improving filly trained by Vicky Oliver – won a blanket finish with four other fillies in the earlier division by a scant nose and should appreciate the increase in real estate.  Oliver has confirmed that the Pucker Up is her filly’s goal.
         One filly for whom the graded stakes bell has already tolled is James Miller’s Aurelia’s Belle.  The Wayne Catalano trainee was given a nice rest after a stylish victory in the Grade III Arlington Oaks over the main course’s Polytrack – a victory which was her third in graded company following an adjudged victory in the grassy Grade III Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs in June and a facile win in the Grade III Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park over that course’s Polytrack.  Only worse than third once in eight tries, the daughter of solid sire Lemon Drop Kid would be the expected slight favorite.
        Second to Aurelia’s Belle in the Arlington Oaks and subsequently an excellent runner-up in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks is Tom Van Meter and trainer Mike Stidham’s Stellaris.  Aimed at the Pucker Up since her wide and awkward trip at Del Mar, the daughter of Harlan’s Holiday has shown improvement with every start of her career and seems to be entering her second grass attempt in fine shape. 
        Stidham also trains Gary Biszantz’s lightly raced and long-winded Helen Kathleen.  A daughter of Candy Ride who has faced her elders in all four starts and won her last two races – her only attempts on the grass – Helen Kathleen has won both of those Arlington events without fully extending herself.  Her last effort – at the Pucker Up’s 1 1/8 miles – was very impressive and indicative of a filly who will revel in races at or beyond said trip.  Also lightly raced and dangerous in this spot would be the Graham Motion-trained Final Redemption.  Recently second behind highly regarded multiple stakes winner Miss Frost in the Tenski Stakes at Saratoga, the Narolla Stable-owned daughter of Hard Spun won her debut one race prior in a zippy 1:09.88 for six grassy furlongs at Belmont Park and should take well to the nine furlongs of the Pucker Up.
        Two very live outsiders who both finished second in the aforementioned Hatoof divisions are Mark Stanley’s Tempers Flair and Curtis Green’s Maria Maria.  The former stepped up from a maiden victory at Ellis Park for conditioner Dale Romans to run a big race behind Annulment – losing by the smallest of noses.  Maria Maria ran lights-out in her third grass attempt in the second division of the Hatoof – bravely chasing a talented Kiss Moon in the process to lose by a length under Luis Saez.  The exertion earned her a career-high Equibase Speed Figure of 103 and should set the Jimmy DiVito-trained daughter of Curlin up beautifully for an increase in distance.
        Speaking of the Hatoof, veteran trainer Tom Proctor has two possible runners in the Pucker Up, including Lucky Seven Stable’s Hatoof third-place finisher V V Goodnight.  Losing by a head for it all (behind Annulment and Tempers Flair), the daughter of Midnight Lute has been consistently competitive in stakes and allowance company.  Proctor also has Five Fillies Stable’s lightly raced Sistas Stroll under consideration with the possibility of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith flying in from California for the ride.  A big winner last out in an allowance at Del Mar, the daughter of Stroll reveled in the same 1 1/8 miles of the Pucker Up in what was only her third career start.
David ZennerSenior Manager of Communications
Arlington International Racecourse
2200 W. Euclid Ave. Arlington Heights IL 60006-0007
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