09/05/2009 12:00AM

Romacaca brings streak to Pucker Up

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Four-Footed Fotos
Romacaca, a winner of three straight on the Arlington turf, heads Monday's Grade 3, $200,000 Pucker Up.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Owner Frank Calabrese captured the 2007 Pucker Up Stakes with Dreaming of Anna, a Calabrese homebred by the excellent sire Rahy and a sister to graded stakes horses Lewis Michael and Justenuffhumor. This year, Calabrese is back in the Pucker Up with a filly who hardly could be more different. Romacaca was acquired through a $25,000 claim on April 17 at Gulfstream Park. She is by the $5,000 sire Running Stag, and there is nothing in her immediate family to suggest stakes quality.

But forget all that: Romacaca can run. She's won three straight on Arlington turf by more than 12 lengths combined and is very much the horse to beat Monday in the Grade 3, $200,000 Pucker Up, a 1 1/8-mile grass race for 3-year-old fillies.

The Pucker Up is the last of four Labor Day stakes, preceded by the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes, the $100,000 Sea O'Erin, and the $60,000 Honor Glide. After the opener Monday, the next nine races all are scheduled for turf, which should be quick and firm.

Romacaca is one of 12 horses entered in the Pucker Up, but the group lacks the proven quality present in past editions of the race, which often has served as a meaningful prep to the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. But maybe Romacaca is that kind of horse. Post 11 on Monday should not slow her down, since Romacaca heads straight to the lead in her races.

"This filly, she lost her footing a little bit breaking last time, and she still just opened up on them," trainer Danny Miller said.

Miller said that after Romacaca's three-length overnight stakes win in July, jockey E.T. Baird said that she had been "a little rank."

"I made a little equipment change with her, put a different figure 8 [bridle] on her, and after the last race he told me, 'Much better,' " Miller said.

C.S. Silk could tussle with Romacaca on the lead and won her only turf start. Last out, in the Arlington Oaks on Polytrack, C.S. Silk was clear early on a moderate pace but had nothing for the stretch run. The winner of the local Oaks, Peach Brew, also is back for the Pucker Up but is unproven on turf.

California shipper Hameildaeme drew post 12 and looks suspect at the Pucker Up's distance. Hot Cha Cha finished third in the Arlington Oaks and was a closing third in the Grade 3 Regret over nine furlongs on the Churchill grass course. Kiss Mine comes off a turf win at Ellis Park, and her dam, Kiss the Devil, finished second in the 2001 Pucker Up for trainer Dave Vance.