Hot Cha Cha found room along the inside turning for home and pulled away in the stretch under James Graham for an 8-1 upset in the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT) Oct. 17 (VIDEO) at Keeneland.
It was the first grade I victory for Hot Cha Cha, Graham, and trainer Phil Sims. A 3-year-old daughter of Cactus Ridge, Hot Cha Cha scored her third graded stakes win of the season. She won the Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) in March on the Turfway Park Polytrack and last out took the Pucker Up (gr. IIIT) at Arlington Park.
Hot Cha Cha, a homebred racing for Nelson McMakin, covered 1 1/8 miles on the soft turf in 1:53.09.
"She's hearts and guts, and gives you all she has," Sims said. "She gets better every race."
Breaking from post 3, Hot Cha Cha was never far off the pace while running towards the hedge. Shared Account was the leader for much of the way under Edgar Prado, getting easy splits of :24.99, :51.27, and 1:16.80. Multiple graded stakes winner Gozzip Girl, the 7-10 favorite, pressed Shared Account the whole way and came up to challenge the leader midway on the turn. Blind Date also raced close to the pace.
As they made their way off the turn, a big hole opened for Hot Cha Cha along the inside and the dark bay filly went on through willingly while passing Shared Account and Gozzip Girl. She opened up a two-length lead at the eighth-pole and was never challenged in the stretch while going on to a 4 1/2-length score. Shared Account was 1 1/2 lengths better than Gozzip Girl for runner-up.
"I pulled the trigger a little sooner than I wanted to, but if I didn't the hole would've closed and I'd have never got through," Graham said. "When I did get through, she exploded all the way to the wire. She's a lovely filly."
Hot Cha Cha won for the fifth time in 10 starts this season. Bred in Kentucky, she is out of the Broad Brush mare Reduced Sentence. Overall, she has earned $585,566 in 11 starts.
The winner paid $19, $7, and $3.40. The exacta (3-5) returned $147.40 and the trifecta (3-5-4) was $480.40.
Miss World, the Garden City (gr. IT) winner last out, was fourth, followed by Lady Shakespeare, Hameildaeme, and Blind Date.