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Hot Cha Cha Flying Under Radar

Arlington Park.

She was beaten less than two lengths in Arlington’s $200,000 American 1000 Guineas in the spring of 2009, a half-length in the Grade III Arlington Oaks later that summer, and then went on to be clearly best by a length and a quarter in Arlington’s Grade III Pucker Up last Labor Day weekend. 



Nevertheless, Nelson McMakin’s Hot Cha Cha remains under the radar in advance of her projected start in the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes Aug. 21, and that’s in spite of her third-place run in the Grade III Modesty Handicap July 17 as Arlington’s final designed prep for the Beverly D.



As the Grade I Arlington Million’s sister race, the $750,000 Beverly D. is restricted to turf-favoring fillies and mares of international caliber and will be contested along with the Million and the Grade I Secretariat Stakes restricted to 3-year-olds as part of Arlington’s one-day International Festival of Racing on the third Saturday in August.



Although it will be observing its 20th renewal in three weeks, the Beverly D. has always stood in the shadow of its “older brother” contest because the Million is the centerpiece event of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season.



In a more time-sensitive parallel universe, Hot Cha Cha will be certainly overshadowed by William de Burgh’s Tuscan Evening in the upcoming Beverly D.  That Irish-bred Modesty winner has won all six of her start this year – all coming in graded stakes.



German-bred Éclair de Lune, owned by Richard Duchossois and runner-up in the Modesty, is a quickly-improving mare who could also eclipse Hot Cha Cha in the wagering, as could Augustin Stable’s Rainbow View – fourth in the Modesty – as well as several other possible Beverly D. starters running in Saratoga’s Grade I Diana Handicap on Saturday and Monmouth’s Grade III Taylor Made Matchmaker on Sunday.



However, prognosticators might be advised not to dance too lightly over the past performances of Hot Cha Cha on their way to the wickets.  Was she the victim of a slow pace in the Modesty?



 “I would say so,” said trainer Phil Sims, speaking over the phone from Lexington, Kentucky, Friday morning.  “I feared it might fall that way.  Naturally, we’re going to hope for a lot more pace in the Beverly D.

“Hot Cha Cha is by far the best horse I’ve ever had,” said Sims of the daughter of Cactus Ridge who finished third in Keeneland’s Grade II Jenny Wiley in her first start of the year on April 10; second in Churchill’s Grade II Distaff Turf Mile on Kentucky Derby Day May 1; and then captured Churchill’s Grade III Mint Julep Handicap June 5 before her third-place run in the Modesty.


Sims, 49, born and raised in Lexington, has been training horses for about 25 years on his own but grew up in the business. 


“We grew up breeding horses on our family farm,” said Sims, “so I just sort of got into training by default.  Mr. McMakin is a longtime client of mine.  He was one of the first people I trained horses for.  He bred Hot Cha Cha and breeds to race and sell.  At one time he owned a large number of McDonald’s franchises and still owns several of them in the area.


“We’ll probably give Hot Cha Cha her final work five to seven days before race and then bring her up to Chicago a day or two ahead of the Beverly D.,” Sims concluded.  “James Graham will be her jockey once again.”






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