Hot Cha Cha, a 9-1 outsider making her stakes debut, seized the lead from favored Fitz Just Right leaving the eighth pole and drew away to a romping six-length win in the $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) (VIDEO) at Turfway Park March 21.
Ridden by Orlando Mojica, Hot Cha Cha endured a wide trip but was easily the best in the one-mile test for 3-year-old fillies. Trained by Phillip Sims for owner/breeder Nelson McMakin, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Cactus Ridge was coming off an optional claiming allowance win at Turfway at the Bourbonette distance March 7.
Fitz Just Right, the 7-5 choice ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, edged Instrumentalist and Garrett Gomez for second. The final time was 1:37.22 over the Polytrack.
Mojica, breaking from the outside, held Hot Cha Cha toward the back of the pack as Instrumentalist set a pressured pace over Fitz Just Right through tepid quarter-mile fractions of :24.13 and :47.94. On the backstretch, the leaders were four across the track as Instrumentalist and Fitz Just Right were joined by Foxy Bailey and Oculuna. The six-furlong split was 1:12.09 as Foxy Bailey dropped back and Hot Cha Cha loomed up while racing five wide on the final turn.
Hot Cha Cha, on the far outside, reached even terms with the leaders approaching mid-stretch and put her head in front with a furlong to run. She finished with a flourish under steady handling, leaving Fitz Just Right far behind. The runner-up finished a head in front of Instrumentalist, who was a nose better than Walloon. Stone Legacy, Super Poni, Oculuna, Honchis'n Ponchis, Foxy Bailey, and Step Out Smartly completed the order.
”We decided to take a shot,” said Sims. “She ran so well last time that I told Mr. McMakin that we should take a chance here. Her last race was her first time around two turns and she loved it. She has the pedigree for it. The race just set up perfect for us with the speed and the 10 hole. We were happy when we got that.”
Sims said he does not plan to run Hot Cha Cha back in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. “It’s just too soon,” he said. “It’s a long summer. There are races like the Arlington Oaks, which is on the Polytrack. I think that’s where she needs to be, and maybe turf.”
The winner earned $90,675 for her third victory in five starts, all coming on the Turfway main track. She broke her maiden for a $50,000 tag going six furlongs Jan. 9. Her career bankroll stands at $114,760. The dark bay filly is out of the Broad Brush mare Reduced Sentence.
Hot Cha Cha paid $20, $7.20 and $5. Fitz Just Right, favored off her front-running win in the OBS Championship win March 1 at Ocala Training Center, returned $3.60 and $2.60 while completing a $2 exacta worth $60.20. Instrumentalist, unbeaten in two prior starts and also making her stakes debut for trainer Tom Drury Jr., was $3 to show.
Velasquez, who piloted Fitz Just Right, was satisfied with his filly’s effort. “She ran okay,” he said. “She got a little tired the last part of the race. That other filly went by me pretty fast. She ran a very good race. I have no excuses. That other filly just beat us.”