Updated on 09/15/2011 1:02PM

Snow Dance heads Pucker Up at Arlington


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The lesson is not buried deep in the past. Six months ago, the 3-year-old colt Monarchos followed up a smashing win in the Florida Derby with a loss in the Wood Memorial. But even before the Wood, trainer John Ward publicly proclaimed that the race was a stepping-stone to a greater goal, the Kentucky Derby, which Monarchos won three weeks later.

So it might pay to take Ward seriously when he says that the 3-year-old filly Snow Dance has as her main objective the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes next month at Keeneland and that Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Pucker Up Stakes at Arlington is a stop along the way.

"I haven't trained her hard for this race," Ward said. "And I don't want to have to train her hard before the QE II, which is our main goal."

Still, Snow Dance should be an imposing presence in the Pucker Up, a 1 1/8-mile grass race for 3-year-old fillies that attracted 13 entries. Snow Dance is the most accomplished of them, having won the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga last month. She is undefeated in three starts since Ward moved her to turf, and in fact has never been headed in a grass race.

"I always thought she wanted to go long," said Ward, "but I thought she'd settle in more [behind the pace]. We were all surprised with that speed."

A change in tactics seems unlikely Saturday, since Snow Dance, breaking from post 8 under Craig Perret, appears capable of controlling the pace in the Pucker Up.

Her most formidable opponents are the rapidly developing Sluice, Twilight Tryst, and Scoop. Sluice trains with Bill Mott's Churchill Downs string, and has twice invaded Arlignton this summer for turf races. She was beaten July 14 by the good older filly Flinch, then won the Aug. 4 Misty Isle here by two lengths with a powerful stretch run.

Sluice outfinished Twilight Tryst in the Misty Isle, handing that filly her first loss in a grass race. Twilight Tryst must step up her game to win the Pucker Up, while stakes winner Scoop must transfer her main-track ability to grass racing as she makes her turf debut.