09/12/2012 4:19PM

Arlington Park: Rare Event a speedy part of diverse Pucker Up cast

Coady Photography
Volcat wins the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks last time out.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Earlier this month, Keeneland-based trainer Phil Oliver invaded Arlington Park with a relatively unknown 4-year-old gelding and took home first money in the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap when Middie won in a romp at odds of 14-1. This weekend, it is Vicki Oliver, Phil’s wife, who is coming to Chicago to try a graded stakes. Bettors should be so lucky to get anything close to 14-1 on Rare Event, Oliver’s entrant in Saturday’s Grade  3, $175,000 Pucker Up Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Rare Event was one of 12 horses entered in the Pucker Up, which has a longstanding tradition as a feeder race for the Grade  1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup next month at Keeneland. In and of itself, the Pucker Up has been pretty productive, too. Marketing Mix won last year, with high-class horses Hot Cha Cha, Dreaming of Anna, and Vacare victorious in recent seasons.

The 2012 Pucker Up sports an appealing cast with a diverse background. Angegreen, owned by Team Valor Stable and Robert LaPenta, makes her first start since being imported from Italy and turned over to trainer Graham Motion. Miss Cato, an English import, finished fourth in the Grade  1 American Oaks in her U.S. debut, and was a fast-closing second Aug. 5 in a Del Mar allowance race. She shipped in early to Arlington and worked a bullet half-mile in 47 seconds over Polytrack on Wednesday. Volcat won the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks in her most recent start, and also entered Wednesday were several horses who last raced Arlington Million Day in two divisions of the Hatoof Stakes, including Leading Astray and Julia’s Star, the Hatoof winners.

The Oliver-trained filly, Rare Event, might slip through the cracks, the two wins on her résumé having come this summer at Ellis Park. But Rare Event can run. An A. P. Indy filly owned by G. Watts Humphrey and St.  George Farm, Rare Event finished a subtly good fourth in her career debut at Churchill Downs, galloping out in front of the field, before showing better early speed and romping to victory in her two Ellis races. The first came against maidens, but more recently, Rare Event beat older allowance-class males by more than five lengths while easily staying the nine-furlong trip she will try again in the Pucker Up.