09/15/2011 4:19PM

Arlington: Pucker Up could be someone's stepping-stone to QE II Challenge Cup

Michael Burns
Marketing Mix, winning her turf debut in the restricted Wonder Where at Woodbine, may go favored when she faces open company in the Grade 3 Pucker Up.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – No proven graded-stakes fillies appear in the Grade 3 Pucker Up, Saturday’s feature at Arlington, but numbers alone suggest someone from this group will turn into something greater than merely useful.

Fourteen 3-year-old fillies are entered in the $100,000 Pucker Up, a 1 1/8-mile grass race that often has served as a solid stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup next month at Keeneland. No one has won a graded stakes, though the top end of the Pucker Up, headed by Marketing Mix, Trac N Jam, and Summer Savoy looks solid. And not to be overlooked is stakes-debuting Don’t Tell Sophia, who seems poised to handle a class hike Saturday.

Marketing Mix figures to be favored for owner Glen Hill Farm, trainer Tom Proctor, and jockey Junior Alvarado. Her most recent race, July 31 at Woodbine, was her first on grass, and though Marketing Mix looked all right on Polytrack, she appeared happier on turf. Running in the $250,000 Wonder Where, a 10-furlong race restricted to Ontario-breds, Marketing Mix was eighth in the early going, but moved up smoothly down the backstretch to tuck in just behind the leader going into the far turn. The rail opened up and Marketing Mix burst through to win by almost five lengths, and while skeptics will note the perfect ground-saving trip, Marketing Mix got that journey thanks to her ability to make two strong moves.

Trac N Jam’s experience in the Lake Placid on Aug. 21 at Saratoga was entirely different.

“It was just a horrible trip,” said trainer Andy Hansen.

Winner of the $137,000 Indiana Distaff in July, Trac N Jam and jockey Jermaine Bridgmohan got bogged down along the rail on an exceedingly wet turf course, where the going was worst, and didn’t get out until midstretch, where Trac N Jam finished with good energy moving from seventh to fifth.

“She bounced off [heavily favored] Winter Memories three or four times,” Hansen said. “Jermaine was trying to get her out of that spot, and he couldn’t.”

Trac N Jam was second to Summer Savory before winning two straight over the Arlington course earlier in the meet. She has yet to race on turf that truly was firm

Summer Savory won an Arlington allowance race after beating Trac N Jam, and was a fine second in the Grade 2 Virginia Oaks on July 16, but Summer Savory’s most recent race produced a flat sixth-place finish in the Ontario Colleen, a one-mile turf race at Woodbine.

No horse in the Pucker Up has made a better visual impression than Don’t Tell Sophia, who won a long-layoff comeback over turf maidens at Indiana Downs on July 1 and beat entry-level allowance foes Aug. 12 over Hoosier Park dirt, winning by almost nine lengths while displaying brilliant acceleration in the stretch.

“The Pucker Up will test her, but I feel like she’s good enough,” said trainer Phil Sims, who co-owns Don’t Tell Sophia and bought her as a yearling for $1,000. “I always have liked her. She’s still just kind of learning.”

Don’t Tell Sophia has yet to race beyond one mile, but she is a big, strong filly, and the best part of both her wins has been the last furlong.\

“When she gets going, she can really move,” Sims said.

Don’t Tell Sophia is co-owned by Jerry Namy and will be ridden by Leandro Goncalves, both of whom had graded stakes success here last weekend with Shared Property, winner of the Arlington-Washington Futurity.