09/12/2002 12:00AM

Little Treasure gets Douglas


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - In one of the bigger upsets of the meet, Rene Douglas has gone a month without winning a stakes race. That can change Saturday. Douglas has landed the mount on Little Treasure, the favorite and horse to beat in the Grade 3 Pucker Up, a nine-furlong grass race for 3-year-old fillies.

Before Arlington Million Day and its three Grade 1's rolled around, Douglas, the runaway leading rider at this meet, had won seven of the eight graded stakes contested here this summer. He had swept the graded turf races while riding almost flawlessly, but the one bit of trouble Douglas encountered came at a terrible time, when the onrushing Falcon Flight got into traffic in deep stretch of the Arlington Million.

Don't hold it against him. Douglas has ridden confidently and masterfully on this turf all summer, and his presence enhances the already solid prospects for Little Treasure, who shipped east Wednesday from the suddenly powerful Southern California stable of trainer Laura de Seroux.

Little Treasure, de Seroux said, began her career training off her original owner's farm in Normandy, but after displaying talent too great for the French provincial racecourses where she first raced, Little Treasure graduated to the big time, winning a group stakes at Chantilly before her private purchase by U.S. interests.

Owned now by Chicagoan Sidney Port, Little Treasure raced just weeks after arriving in this country and won the Grade 2 San Clemente by a nose on Aug. 3 at Del Mar. And she, more than any of her 10 rivals Saturday, has a chance to go onto more important races later this fall, in particular the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland, where last year's Pucker Up winner, Snow Dance, finished fourth.

"She's not the typical French filly that needs to be covered up," de Seroux said. "I saw in her races in France that she stalks. She has tactical speed."

She can use it from post 1, from where she will chase the likely pacesetter, Cellars Shiraz. Little Treasure should find herself placed close to Miss Marcia, probably the second choice based on her third-place finish last month in the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga.

Transition Time, winner of an overnight stakes prep for the Pucker Up, and Attico, must prove they can handle a step up in class, but both finished fast when heads apart in their July 28 race here.

The first-time import Baldellia, a French filly trained by David Smaga, is the unknown quantity, though Little Treasure soundly defeated her earlier this year.

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