09/13/2002 11:00PM

Little Treasure wins on the lead


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - As hot as trainer Laura de Seroux has been in graded stakes races this year, Rene Douglas has been even hotter riding stakes winners at Arlington. Put those two together with the most talented filly in Arlington's Pucker Up Stakes, Little Treasure, and you had a sure winner.

Douglas, riding his eighth graded takes winner this summer, had to alter strategy in the Grade 3, $150,000 Pucker Up, letting Little Treasure run to the lead when the other 10 fillies were taken off the pace. "I didn't expect to be on the lead, but nobody else wanted it," Douglas said.

Little Treasure had won 4 of 7 starts in France before de Seroux's husband, Emmanuel, picked her out for private purchase. The Chicagoan Sidney Port is Little Treasure's primary owner, and the Pucker Up got onto Little Treasure's agenda so Port could see his filly run at his home track.

And though Little Treasure seemed slightly startled to be galloping along with nobody in front of her, things worked out fine in the end. Douglas had settled his mount into an easy stride on the backstretch and the pace was tepid, 49.24 seconds for a half-mile. Cellars Shiraz, the second choice, ranged up to race just outside Little Treasure, and the pair ran together around the far turn.

"We asked them to run at the same time," Douglas said of himself and Cornelio Velasquez on Cellars Shiraz. "My horse exploded like a nice filly."

Opening up daylight at the furlong pole, Little Treasure was on cruise control in deep stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths. Only Kathy K D launched a late bid, which fell just short of Cellars Shiraz for the place. Little Treasure, who paid $4.60, was timed in 1:49.92 for nine furlongs over firm turf.

"She's probably on her way to being a grade 1 horse," de Seroux said. "Maybe the Queen Elizabeth would be a possibility."

* Racing against Illinois-breds for the first time in a distinguished career, Two Item Limit made short work of five rivals in the $42,000 Unique Type Handicap, winning by four lengths while geared down by Douglas in the last 50 yards. Trainer Steve DiMauro shipped Two Item Limit here from New York to try and build her confidence with an easy win and, perhaps, take a step toward the Breeders' Cup Distaff, in which Two Item Limit was third last year. "We're going to train her here for a little while and see how she responds," DiMauro said. "We'll just have to play it by ear and see what happens."