10/02/2003 12:00AM

Keeping the Gold tough if nearer pace


CHICAGO - It would have been nice if Keeping the Gold would have had a bit more racing luck in the Pucker Up Stakes on Sept. 13 at Arlington. The Pucker Up is a Grade 3, and a graded stakes placing is a gold star on the credentials of any filly that might turn into a broodmare. There were 12 horses in the Pucker Up, and several of them got in Keeping the Gold's way as she rallied in the stretch. She wound up fifth, beaten only a couple lengths, and might have been second with a clean run.

But Keeping the Gold is still just 3, and she has done plenty of developing during the last six months. There may well be graded stakes racing in her future, and Saturday's $40,000 Miss Creeker Stakes at Hawthorne, a one-mile grass race, should help determine which surface it will come on.

"She showed enough on grass last time to make m think she can go on," trainer, Chris Block said. "I need to run her somewhere, and I don't want to ship. We were going to run in the Indiana Oaks, but that came up tougher, so we decided to stay home. This at least should give us a better idea of whether or not she's really a turf horse."

The Miss Creeker, restricted to 3-year-old fillies, drew a highly bettable field of 12, and once again, Keeping The Gold will need racing luck if jockey Eddie Razo is to maneuver her a victory.

It's possible Razo will keep his filly closer to the pace this time, giving her fewer horses to pass in the late going. Keeping The Gold was 10th on the backstretch of the Pucker Up, but earlier in the summer had raced just behind the leaders in faster-paced dirt races. From that position, the snappy stretch punch she showed in her last few starts would be very effective.

On paper, there is plenty of pace in the Miss Creeker, with the first-timer turf filly Rebridled Dreams likely to show speed from the rail, and habitual front-runners You Glitter Girl and Cat's Cat drawn farther outside.

You Glitter Girl ran especially well in her last start, setting the pace and just missing by a neck in the $48,000 Flawlessy, her first try at two turns. But the easy lead You Glitter Girl got that day may not be available this time, and a contested pace would help such horses as Valiant Anna and Spiritual Drift, neither of whom is likely to outfinish Keeping the Gold in a fair fight.