11/16/2009 12:00AM

Hot Cha Cha better than last Beyer indicates


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When handicappers peruse the past performances for Saturday's Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs, I imagine some will view Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II winner Hot Cha Cha with a degree of skepticism. She did, after all, record her biggest win the QE II by sliding up the inside, saving more ground than any other starter.

I don't share that opinion. Although Hot Cha did indeed race on the inside in winning the Oct. 17 QE II, she won that race not because of her ground-saving trip, but in spite of it.

Racing over a rain-soaked course in the QE II, officially labeled soft, she raced along what was likely the worst part of the grass course - at least the evidence would suggest as much. Jockeys who rode the grass that day consistently kept their mounts well off the rail, anticipating the inside to be heavier.

In the only other turf race on that card, C.S. Silk proved successful with a three- to four-wide trip from start to finish in an allowance. That filly, incidentally, is one of Hot Cha Cha's many opponents in the Mrs. Revere.

Two races is a dangerously small sample to judge a bias - but bear in mind that over the course of the meet, it was typically proven correct that the wetter the turf, usually the more successful an outside run.

Adding to Hot Cha Cha's appeal is that her QE II victory didn't earn her a flashy Beyer Speed Figure, a 91. So bettors won't be jumping on her because of her number.

It is important to note that a slow pace in that Queen Elizabeth made a fast time and lofty figure near impossible. The six-furlong split was run in 1:16.80. So it is really to her credit that she was able to rally from such a pedestrian pace to complete 1 1/8 miles in 1:53.09.

Admittedly, the conditions for Saturday's Mrs. Revere are expected to be much different - with sunshine and firm turf expected - but this filly has never had difficult handling such conditions before.

I'm further encouraged by the presence of jockey James Graham, who is 2 for 2 aboard Hot Cha Cha.

Don't blame bias for winless rail

Here's a striking statistic for Churchill Downs horseplayers to keep in mind in when handicapping races there. Heading into Thursday, post 1 was 0 for 45 in one-turn races on dirt. It is the only post from which a horse has not won a one-turn race at the meet.

I wouldn't attribute this to a track bias, because horses have been able to win on the inside this meet, particularly when on the lead.

If I had to guess, the inside post's poor numbers might be due in part to the large fields that have been so common this fall. At times these inside runners have gotten squeezed back by the traffic coming down on them, and other times they have simply broken slowly.

Churchill Downs runs a lot of juvenile races in the fall, and the inside can be an intimidating position for an inexperienced horse. Rail horses are also the first to load, meaning they have to stand in the gate the longest.

Undercard plays at Churchill

Beyond the featured Mrs. Revere, other races at Churchill Downs on Saturday present favorable wagering opportunities.

Below are the horses I am most eager to support:

* Flatter Me Rose (race 2): Coming off a wide second in a swiftly run $7,500 claiming sprint at Keeneland, she returns for the same tag at Churchill under conditions that should move her forward. She is proven over the Churchill dirt, and she has 2 wins from 10 starts at a mile.

* Prince Teton (race 5): Breaking from the far outside post at Keeneland on Oct. 21, this colt won his first synthetic race from four tries despite being hung five wide and taking Polytrack kickback in his face. Now he is returned to the Churchill Downs main track, where he won in June. He is also training well, and offers value as the 4-1 third choice on the morning line.

* Truchan (race 10): Racing Oct. 18 at Keeneland in a straight maiden race, this horse had the misfortune to compete against American Lion - one of the most promising young juveniles in the country - and ran deceptively well to finish fourth, beaten nine lengths. That followed a runner-up finish at Turfway behind another nice colt, Raging Wit. Best of all, the price should be right in a deep nightcap.