09/13/2014 6:56PM

Soft turf no problem for Sistas Stroll in Pucker Up

Four-Footed Fotos
Sistas Stroll, under Drayden Van Dyke, heads a one-two-finish for trainer Tom Proctor in the Pucker Up.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Sistas Stroll, aptly moved into stakes competition for the first time by trainer Tom Proctor, won the Grade 3, $150,000 Pucker Up Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths on Saturday at Arlington.

Proctor did more good than just that. V V Goodnight, another filly from his barn, rallied strongly to finish second, the top two much better than the other seven in the race.

“How does it feel to beat yourself?” trainer Wayne Catalano wanted to know as Proctor walked past, headed to an Arlington antechamber for a celebratory champagne toast.

Catalano had kept his humor despite a disappointing showing from his Pucker Up filly, Aurelia’s Belle. Very wide on the first turn, Aurelia’s Belle raced one-paced, checking in fifth.

The trip was much better for Sistas Stroll, who was taken in hand just before the first turn and steered to the two path, where she sat a lovely covered-up trip until coming with her run in the stretch. Orchestrating the favorable journey was the apprentice rider, Drayden Van Dyke, who won his first graded stakes in his 17th try. Van Dyke has been the de factor first-call rider for Proctor, who used him on the Pucker Up winner despite the stakes-mandated absence of Van Dyke’s apprentice weight allowance.

The course was a factor Saturday, the ground rated soft after a cold, rainy Friday, and wet enough that the day’s other grass races were moved to Polytrack. The race that propelled Sistas Stroll into the Pucker Up, a first-level allowance victory over older rivals, had come at Del Mar on ground far from soft, but Sistas Stroll is a handy filly of modest stature who seemed at ease on the going. Final Redemption, the narrow 5-2 favorite over Aurelia’s Belle, set moderate fractions of 24.29 seconds, 50.36, and 1:16.38 while appearing well within herself, but she had no real response when Van Dyke and Sistas Stroll came to her in midstretch.

V V Goodnight, meanwhile, was away awkwardly, slow enough into stride that she wound up second-last into the first turn. Jockey Mike Smith figured the start cost him a chance to at least come close to the winner, and he might have been right, as V V Goodnight finished much better than anyone, closing in on the winner in the final half-furlong.

A claim of foul against V V Goodnight for interference at the five-sixteenths pole was disallowed. Winning time for 1 1/8 miles on soft going was 1:55.13. Sistas Stroll paid $17.20 to win.

By Stroll and out of the Bernstein mare Burncredit, Sistas Stroll ran her record to 3 for 4 overall and 3 for 3 on grass. She is owned by the Five Fillies Stable of Brett Setzer, and was purchased as a yearling at Keeneland’s September 2012 auction for $20,000.