How to bet the 2023 Pucker Up Stakes

August 4th, 2023

A competitive field of nine sophomore fillies will go 1 1/8 miles on the Ellis Park lawn in Sunday’s $300,000 Pucker Up S. (G3). Victoria Oliver’s #1 Bling (9-2) is the controlling speed in the field and gets the nod to take this group all the way on the front end. The gray daughter of American Pharoah is 2-for-2 on the course following a fine maiden score here last season and a game allowance victory going one mile locally in her latest appearance.

Bling is perfectly drawn on the rail and has every right to move forward while making just her third start since November, when she tackled the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Rafael Bejarano will be in the controls atop the Kentucky-bred and will send her from the break.

I’ll use a trio of runners underneath the top pick, including morning-line choice #4 Safeen (3-1) with Luis Saez in the silks. The talented daughter of War Front was a bargain $18,000 auction purchase but has outrun her price tag considerably. The dark bay miss was a stakes heroine at Indiana two starts back, and she ran well when a close third while facing some good ones in the Tepin S. on the surface most recently. The filly has tactical speed and will likely track the tempo from second or third while always in close attendance.

#9 Freydis the Red (6-1) was defeated by just 2 3/4 lengths in the Belmont Oaks (G1) most recently and seems like a generous price to me. The Kenny McPeek pupil stylishly broke her maiden beneath the Twin Spires two prior and has the turn of foot to be a menacing figure in the stretch if she is not left with too much to do late. Brian Hernandez Jr. has the call.

I’m also intrigued by the Ian Wilkes-trained #8 Champagne Calling (10-1), who will be making her grassy bow. The bay daughter of Empire Maker has flashed potential on more than one occasion on the dirt and is bred to thrive on the green for a barn that is capable first time trying the weeds. The $250,000 yearling purchase will stalk the pace with Chris Landeros in the silks.

Pucker Up Wagers

$6 trifecta: key 1 with 4,8,9 ($36)

$.50-cent superfecta: 1,4 with 1,4,8,9 with 1,4,8,9 with all ($36)