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
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
“I would say so,” said trainer Phil Sims,
speaking over the phone from Lexington,
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
“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.”