09/10/2003 11:00PM

Pucker Up a beauty


CHICAGO - The filly Keeping the Gold is entered in Saturday's Pucker Up Stakes at Arlington Park. She also was entered in the Prairie Meadows Oaks on Friday, a dirt race worth $100,000 less than the Pucker Up. Keeping the Gold's trainer, Chris Block, wants to try his filly on turf, and only ships when required. So, why bother cross-entering?

"The race here is coming up really tough," Block said, emphatically.

Twelve fillies were entered in the $175,000 Pucker Up, a Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile turf race restricted to 3-year-olds. The field is long on contenders, short on chaff. Block has to worry not only about Sue's Good News, who handled Keeping the Gold in the Singapore Plate here, but also about several others.

Sarie Marais lost by less than a length in her lone U.S. start and is trained by Michael Dickinson. Achnasheen was beaten six lengths by Dimitrova in the $750,000 American Oaks. Cat's Cat and Hail Hilary ran one-two in a solid overnight race here last month. And Hoh Buzzard and Plume Rouge are European invaders with quality.

Gary Stevens rides Hoh Buzzard for the owner Gary Tanaka. It is Stevens's first Arlington appearance since he was thrown by Storming Home at the finish of the Arlington Million last month.

Sue's Good News, Block already knows well. When she beat Keeping the Gold in the Singapore Plate, Sue's Good News caused a collective exhale from her connections. This was a filly held in high regard a half-year before she raced. Training as a 2-year-old at Arlington last summer, Sue's Good News impressed her trainer, Steve Hobby, and the rider Chris Emigh, who was breezing her. She wowed jockey Tim Doocy at Oaklawn this spring, and he rode her to four straight easy wins to start her career.

Then her problems began. Sue's Good News missed a race because of a virus. She tied up after a workout and missed another stakes. And in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks, which was to be her coming-out party, Sue's Good News tied up again and finished a dull sixth.

The condition of tying up, where a horse's muscle's seize and restrict movement, is common in Thoroughbreds, especially nervous fillies. Why Sue's Good News does it is mysterious. "She's as relaxed as can be to train," Hobby said.

Hobby changed Sue's Good News's feed program after Delaware, and kept her at home for the Singapore Plate, where she rallied from off the pace for the first time and won impressively.

"I always knew she had that acceleration in her, but she's never had a chance to show it before," Hobby said.

In fact, Sue's Good News looked like a grass horse, the way she ran in the Singapore Plate. Two recent grass workouts strengthened that notion, and Doocy flies in to give Sue's Good News her first real try on grass. A strong showing could lead to the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland.

Smart Deb deep, even for Amoss

The Pucker Up isn't the only surprisingly good race Saturday. The Smart Deb, for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs, is much tougher than a $45,000 overnight stakes ought to be.

"I was surprised to see there were 12 entered," said the trainer Tom Amoss, who has two fillies for the Smart Deb. Amoss's fillies are good ones, and he figured he'd have a good chance to run one-two. He might, but not easily.

Holy Bublette has won three straight since joining Amoss's stable late this spring. She comes off an eight-length win in a $50,000 Louisiana Downs stakes and will show plenty of speed from post 2. The other Amoss horse, Finally Here, is a stalking type. She exits a half-length win the Duchess, a Grade 3 stakes run at Woodbine.

"It's a stepping-stone for both horses," Amoss said. "We're still hoping Finally Here can stretch out and run two turns."

The race gets deeper than expected with fillies like Star of Atticus, the comebacking Rebridled Dreams, and Leaseholder's Dream.