09/13/2012 1:59PM

Arlington: European imports figure prominently in Pucker Up

Four-Footed Fotos
Leading Astray (right) and Freedom Reigns, separated by a nose in last month's Hatoof, are rematched in the Pucker Up.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – It’s not like North American racing fans require regular reminders concerning the superiority of European grass horses, but Arlington Million Day provided one anyway. Euros won three of Million Day’s four major races, and with better luck Million runner-up Afsare might have made it a clean overseas sweep. A month later the landscape looks the same, with two European imports among the favorites Saturday in the Grade 3, $175,000 Pucker Up Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile grass race for 3-year-old fillies.

Angegreen makes her U.S. debut after five productive starts in Italy, while Miss Cato races for the third time since being imported from England this summer. Those two fillies compose one-sixth of a deep, potentially substantive edition of the Pucker Up, which goes as the eighth of 11 races.

Team Valor International and Robert LaPenta bought Angegreen before she finished second of 13 on May 25 in the Group 2 Italian Oaks at San Siro. The filly arrived in early July at trainer Graham Motion’s base at Fair Hill in Maryland with the idea of sending her to the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park, but after evaluating the horse, the decision was made to scrap that plan and give Angegreen more time.

“I think the time has really benefitted her,” Motion said. “Some of these European horses it benefits especially when they’ve coming over into the heat. She’s been a very straightforward horse, and this race has always kind of been in the back of our mind.”

Mike Smith, a rare pilot of Motion-trained horses, is named to ride the 7-2 morning-line favorite.

Miss Cato, purchased by Three Chimneys Racing earlier this year, makes her first start on Saturday for trainer Roger Attfield, though Attfield has yet to lay eyes on the filly. Miss Cato raced for her England-based trainer Rae Guest when she finished a decent fourth of eight in the July 14 American Oaks, and she ran for trainer Edward Freeman in a fast-closing neck loss Aug. 5 in a Del Mar allowance race. Attfield’s assistant Susie Lorimer has overseen Miss Cato the last week at Arlington, and the filly ships to Woodbine following her race. Miss Cato worked a bullet half-mile over Polytrack on Wednesday, surprising her handlers with the forcefulness of her drill.

“She was much more aggressive than we thought she’d be,” said Attfield. “Everything seems to be in good order, except for the post.”

Miss Cato, with leading rider Cisco Torres named, drew post 12.

Freedom Reigns is another ex-European, though she has been in the U.S. since March and made four starts here. Three of those races produced wins, and Freedom Reigns might be 4 for 4 on Arlington turf had she started her strong finish slightly earlier on a division of the Aug. 18 Hatoof Stakes. As it was, Freedom Reigns rallied from 11 lengths behind on the far turn to miss catching Pucker Up rival Leading Astray by a nose.

“She’s been working unbelievably,” said trainer Doug Matthews. “Any time you pull the trigger, she’ll do what you want her to.”

Thrice-started Rare Event won her last two races, both over Ellis Park turf, by more than 10 lengths combined. She beat males Aug. 11 in an allowance-race romp while comfortably handling the nine-furlong trip she gets again Saturday.

“The farther the better for her,” said trainer Vicki Oliver. “We’ve always thought she was very talented.”

Rare Event led in her last race but should stalk the pace of Virginia Oaks winner Volcat and Soonerette. Treasured Up finished a good third in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes in June, her most recent turf try.

◗ Saturday’s appealing program also includes two $65,000 overnight turf stakes for Illinois-breds. Cumulonimble, Peyote Patty, and Katie the Lady headline the Lady Lionel for females, while Mr. Mischief and Tazz might be favored in the Tex’s Zing.