09/02/2008 12:00AM

Lassie, Pucker Up crowded


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - If things had gone as originally planned, the 2-year-old filly C. S. Silk would have wound up at Saratoga, racing in the Adirondack Stakes and perhaps this past weekend's Spinaway Stakes. As it happened, C. S. Silk never left her home base at Churchill Downs, but she is coming to Chicago this week for Saturday's Arlington-Washington Lassie, her stakes debut.

For that matter, so are a lot of other horses. At this point, 11 fillies are considered likely runners and a 12th is a possible starter in the one-mile Lassie. Besides several Kentucky shippers, the race could include one horse from Maryland, the Graham Motion-trained Innovative, as well as California-based Broadway Hennessey, who is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.

Entries for the Lassie were scheduled to be drawn Wednesday.

C. S. Silk is owned by a group of Chicagoans, but trained by Churchill-based Dale Romans, who conditioned the Illinois-bred Wiggins for part of the C.S. Silk partnership. By first-crop sire Medaglia d'Oro, C. S. Silk finished a distant third going five furlongs in her career debut at Churchill in June, but came back to crush 11 rivals in a July 6 maiden race there, winning by more than six lengths.

"She didn't break real clean first time out but I thought it was a good race," Romans said. "We thought she was one of our better fillies - she went and proved it the next time."

Romans said that following C. S. Silk's impressive victory, "Saratoga had been the plan," but that "small issues" had prevented her from making the trip east. Instead, C. S. Silk stayed in light training and returned to the work tab with a bullet half-mile drill Aug. 17. She followed that work with a bullet five furlongs a week later, and worked another five furlongs on Sunday. Robby Albarado, aboard for the maiden win, has a call in the Lassie.

Pretty Prolific, a distant third to Spinaway winner Mani Bhavan in the Adirondack, would be among the favorites if she ships in, and trainer Todd Pletcher plans to enter the trio of Phola, Pride, and Quite the Lady. Others considered possible runners are Mamma Lina, Never Lie, Partners Star, Ravin Maniac, and Wind Caper.

Pucker Up could lure up to 14

While the Lassie is expected to draw a big field, the number of horses who might be entered in Saturday's Grade 3 Pucker Up is even larger, with 14 3-year-old fillies under consideration for the 1 1/8-mile grass race.

Apple Martini, Bel Air Sizzle, Christmas Ship, Clear Pond, Closeout, Daunbeforethemast, Dreaming of Liz, Gone Theatrical, Jazz Jam, Lucky Copy, Much Obliged, Nijinsky Ballet, Return to Paradise, and Tight Precision are all listed as possible starters.

That list includes horses from coast to coast, and beyond the U.S. borders. Jazz Jam is an English-based filly expected to stay in this country after the Pucker Up, while Much Obliged is likely to ship from Woodbine on Thursday night, trainer Malcolm Pierce said.

Pierce and Much Obliged's owners, the Pin Oak Stable, originally chose the Aug. 15 Lake Placid at Saratoga over the Pucker Up, and Much Obliged did indeed start in that race. But she suffered through a dreadful trip, might have struggled over a wet turf course, and wound up a disappointing eighth of nine. That performance was a far cry from Much Obliged's form earlier in the summer, a near-miss to the good filly My Princess Jess in the Boiling Springs at Monmouth, and a sharp win here at Arlington in the inaugural edition of the American 1000 Guineas on May 24.

"It's looking more like we need to come," Pierce said Tuesday. "We had a poor race last time, but the filly's come out of the race in good order. I guess it was a combination of things: she was probably a little too sharp and was too close to the pace early, and then the turf course was pretty soft."

Pierce said Chris Emigh, who rode in the American 1000 Guineas and the Boiling Springs, would have the mount Saturday.

Bel Air Sizzle finished second in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks last time out. Closeout was second to the good filly Ariege in a listed turf stakes at Saratoga. Jazz Jam, the English filly, has won twice, her best victory a listed stakes win on an all-weather surface.

This is right time of year for Love Handles

The most productive part of Love Handles's 2007 campaign began in August and ended in October, and the same thing might be happening again this year. Love Handles had nothing but bad luck early in this Arlington meet, but scored a decisive second-level turf allowance victory here Aug. 9, and looks like she can win again Thursday in the featured seventh race, a third-level optional $62,500 claimer.

Trained by Brian Williamson for a partnership, Love Handles finished seventh, 10th, and second before her 3 1/4-length score last time in a race where she easily overcame a disadvantageous outside post.

No doubt, there is pace in the race, with Happiness Is entered. Happiness Is set a fast pace and won two straight turf races earlier this meet, but her early foot got out of control on Aug. 8, when a half-mile split in less than 46 seconds put a halt to her winning streak. She could rebound Thursday, as could Royal Leah, who was seventh last out in the Lady Canterbury Stakes.

Dreaming of Anna works sharply

On Sunday, Dreaming of Anna had her first work since she finished a close fourth in the Aug. 9 Beverly D. here, going a quick half-mile in 47.80 seconds under trainer Wayne Catalano.

"She breezed good," said Catalano. "She's been doing good, but we just were giving her a little time."

While plans have not been finalized, Dreaming of Anna could start next on Oct. 3 at Keeneland in the $400,000 First Lady at one mile on turf, Catalano said.