Nelson McMakin’s homebred Hot Cha Cha angled four-wide for her stretch run and caught 2-1 favorite Romacaca inside the sixteenth pole to post a 1 1/4-length victory under James Graham in the $200,000 Pucker Up (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) Sept. 7 on the Arlington Park turf course.
It was the second graded stakes win for the 3-year-old daughter of Cactus Ridge—Reduced Sentence, by Broad Brush, but her first black-type win on grass. The Philip Sims trainee won the Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) on the Turfway Park Polytrack back in March.
Overall, Hot Cha Cha won for the third time in 13 starts. She increased her earnings to $285,566.
Romacaca, who pressed the pace the whole way under E.T. Baird, was runner-up by 2 1/2 lengths over Single Solution. The final time for 1 1/8 miles on the “firm’ turf was 1:47.67.
Hot Cha Cha raced well off a hot pace set by Kiss Mine and Romacaca, who breezed through splits of :22.86, :46.58, and 1:10.96. Hot Cha Cha inched closer while rallying four-wide on the turn and was all out to catch Romacaca in the final yards.
“My filly was just doing enough to stay with them,” said Graham, who won a pair of graded stakes on the card. “She wasn’t giving me every little bit she had, but enough to stay and do what she was doing.”
Hot Cha Cha was sent off at odds of 5-1 and paid $13.40, $5, and $3.80. Romacaca returned $3.40 and $3. Single Solution paid $14.60.