06/07/2010 11:00PM

Mint Julep 1-2 headed for Beverly D. match


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Hot Cha Cha is coming sooner, Acoma later, but if things go well for the one-two finishers in last Saturday's Mint Julep Stakes at Churchill Downs, they both will wind up at Arlington on Aug. 21 for a run in the Grade 1 Beverly D.

Hot Cha Cha won the Pucker Up stakes over the Arlington course last summer before capturing the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland last October. She had run well in three straight losing performances since then before breaking through Saturday in Louisville, where she beat Acoma by three-quarters of a length in the Mint Julep under a rail-skimming ride from Chicago-based James Graham.

Phil Sims, who trains Hot Cha Cha for owner-breeder Nelson McMakin, said Hot Cha Cha was likely to ship Arlington for the 1 3/16-mile Modesty on July 17 rather than staying in Kentucky for the one-mile Locust Grove two weeks earlier at Churchill.

"The distance of the Modesty may suit her," said Sims. "She likes that Arlington Park turf course. We're hoping the Modesty and then the Beverly D."

Sims said Hot Cha Cha came out of the Mint Julep in good condition, and had been shipped to his Spring Trace Farm near Georgetown, Ky. Hot Cha Cha will spend about a week on relative holiday there before returning to Sims's string at Keeneland to resume serious training.

Trainer David Carroll, meanwhile, said Mint Julep runner-up Acoma had exited her 2010 debut in good shape, as well. But Carroll said the plan for Acoma was to run back in the Locust Grove, then point to the Beverly D.

"She travels fine, but it's not her favorite thing to do," said Carroll. "I hope to get another race for her here, and then have her ready for the Beverly D."

Acoma trailed a slow early pace by nine lengths, but rallied resolutely while wide to miss by less than a length Saturday.

"I thought she ran a winning race considering the fractions," Carroll said. "The way she finished and galloped out and came back, I was very pleased."

Retirement plan established

Arlington Park, Hawthorne Race Course, and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association have established a program to find homes for retired racehorses, though specifics of the program, to be established by the horsemen's association, haven't yet been outlined.

The horsemen's group has pledged to donate 0.3 percent of purses earned at Chicago racetracks to the program; Arlington has pledged to contribute $25,000 in 2010, and Hawthorne will contribute $12,500 in 2010, and $25,000 in 2011.

"This program goes a long way to help ensure that every horse that regularly races in Chicago has the opportunity to live out its post-racing years under the best possible circumstances," the president of the horsemen's group, Michael Campbell, said in a release issued by Arlington.

The program will be administered by a committee of the horsemen's association board members, and actually began at the start of the 2010 Arlington meet, on April 29. According to the Arlington press release, the committee will determine how the program will operate, "including the determination of eligible horses, selection of retirement facilities and the amount of funding to be provided to each facility, while each racetrack will be responsible for the administration and disbursement of the funds collected."

Triple Check looking like new horse

Triple Check's current form is enough to make Arlington Park followers do a double-take.

Last summer at Arlington, Triple Check won an Illinois-bred turf maiden race, then finished fourth and fifth in four statebred-restricted entry-level allowance starts, hardly the stuff of a promising runner.

But sometime between then and now, Triple Check got faster, smarter, or a combination of both. He won a $50,000 nonwinners-of-two claimer at Tampa Bay, then ran respectably in three open allowance races - two at Fair Grounds, one at Keeneland - before easily winning one of those Illinois-bred entry-level turf allowance races here May 29.

And Thursday, in the featured sixth race, Triple Check looks like a handful as he steps up to his next Illinois-bred allowance conditions. Triple Check returns on fairly short rest, but is a deserving 8-5 favorite on Arlington's morning line. The horse with the best chance of an upset is Lemonade Kid, who has never been worse than third in three grass races against Illinois-breds.