Pop-A-Top's Beyond Blame will look to make it back-to-back graded stakes victories when she challenges a dozen other sophomore fillies in the Grade 3 $100,000 Pucker Up Stakes at Arlington International Racecourse on Saturday, Aug. 11. The 1 1/8-miles turf event for 3-year-old fillies is one of five stakes carded for the International Festival of Racing. The $100,000 Bruce D. Memorial Stakes, G1 $400,000 Secretariat Stakes, G1 $600,000 Beverly D. and G1 $1,000,000 Arlington Million also highlight the festival.
Trained by Brad Cox, the daughter of Blame was a last-out winner of the G3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs in June over the same distance as the Pucker Up. Beyond Blame found the winner's circle on two other occasions – when breaking her maiden by nine lengths over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in February and two starts later when defeating winners by four lengths. She earned a second place finish and black type in the Allen Black Cat LaCombe Memorial Overnight Stakes in March two starts prior to her first graded stakes test in the G3 Edgewood on Churchill Downs' Kentucky Oaks undercard, where she finished a troubled sixth. Florent Geroux was aboard for her win in the Regret and receives the call again to pilot Beyond Blame from stall 13.
Trying the grass for the first time in the Pucker Up is Norma Lee Stockseth and Todd Dunn's Cosmic Burst. Although the daughter of Violence has not raced over the turf, she boasts the highest bankroll in the field with $326,780 in career earnings. In addition, she has finished on the board in all but one of her eight career starts. Highlights on her eight-race resume include stakes wins in the Trapeze Stakes at Remington Park last December as well as the G3 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 10, where she defeated eventual two-time graded stakes winner Red Ruby. Following her graded stakes victory for trainer Donnie Von Hemel, she faced the likes of Sassy Sienna and Wonder Gadot in the Grade III Fantasy Stakes where she finished fourth. The Pennsylvania-bred filly was runner-up most recently in the G3 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows. Cosmic Burst will break from post four under jockey Richard Eramia.
Going for her fourth consecutive victory is Goodwood Racing VIII's Dark Artist. The daughter of Paynter enters the Pucker Up off stakes wins in the Boiling Springs Stakes and Open Mind Stakes at her home track of Monmouth Park. Both stakes victories were captured by margins of less than a length. In the Open Mind, the Jane Cibelli trainee laid second behind pacesetter Too Charming before successfully confronting her in the final strides to win by a neck. Dark Artist was a bit further off the pace when she captured the Boiling Springs, going to the lead in the final eighth of a mile and holding off off a late surge from Reversethedecision. Prior to her pair of stakes wins, she was victorious at Gulfstream Park when defeating a first-level allowance field in wire-to-wire fashion. Regular rider Trevor McCarthy ships in to ride Dark Artist from the rail.
Completing the entries are Princess Warrior (Joel Rosario, post two), Pamina (Jose Ortiz, post three), Diamondcoat (Sophie Doyle, post five), A. A. Azula's Arch (Mitchell Murrill, post six), Madame Milan (Daniel Centeno, post seven), Deadline (Brian Hernandez, Jr., post eight), In the Mood (Jose Valdivia, Jr., post nine), Secret Message (Irad Ortiz, Jr., post ten), Kabella (John Velazquez, post 11) and Smart Shot (Adam Beschizza, post 12).
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