ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILLINOIS -- The rail was the place to be at Arlington today. No one told Hotshot Anna that before the Chicago Handicap -- but, no one needed to.
Despite pressing torrid fractions and racing two wide until the stretch drive, Hotshot Anna had more than enough to blast clear to a five and three-quarters length victory. The filly, owned and trained by Hugh Robertson, crossed the wire in 1:20.93 for the seven furlongs. It was the fastest main-track time at that distance in Arlington's history.
She eclipsed the record of 1:21.02 set by Lovango when he won the 2007 Forward Pass Stakes. So, the seven-furlong track record stays in the family: McLean Robertson trained Lovango to that victory; his father, Hugh, trains Hotshot Anna.
The victory was also the first career graded stakes win for Hotshot Anna's jockey, Harry Hernandez. It was only his third career start at the graded level, after a sixth-place finish with Reina Catalina in the Clasico Verset's Jet Stakes (G3) at Camarero and a third-place finish in the Arlington Classic (G3) with Cuestion de Tiempo. It was also Hernandez's first race riding Hotshot Anna.
The Chicago Handicap, returning to Arlington Park after a year at Churchill Downs instead, drew a field of thirteen runners to contest it. Morning line favourite Union Strike, winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante (G1) in 2016, went off a slight 3.1/1 favourite over 2018 Arlington Matron (G3) winner Princess La Quinta, also 3.1/1, but the real tote board surprise was One Liz. Coming off a second-place finish in the Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap, the Illinois-bred grey mare opened a decisive favourite in the early wagering, and settled a slight third choice at 3.3/1. Only Hotshot Anna (4.8/1) also went off under double-digit odds.
Marquee Miss was pushed to show speed from the rail. Hotshot Anna, also sharp early, settled to her outside flank to prompt an opening quarter in 22.80. The hulking grey One Liz was just behind them, three wide, with Princess La Quinta tucked in right behind them.
Into the far turn, it was still Marquee Miss on the front, with an ever-diminishing lead, clicking off a sizzling 45.08 half-mile. Hotshot Anna turned up the pressure two wide. One Liz had settled back, tracking two wide just outside of rail-hugging One Liz. Union Strike, near the rear but holding that good rail since the beginning, began to inch forward and take closer order.
Past the three eighths, Hotshot Anna nudged her head in front. Marquee Miss tried to run on, but could not keep pace. At about that same point, in the next flight, Princess La Quinta began to outpace One Liz, chasing to her inside. Behind them, still on the rail, Union Strike was being shoved along.
Into the stretch, Hotshot Anna led the parade. Princess La Quinta angled off the rail to get around a fading Marquee Miss. Union Strike and One Liz ran at them in the next flight; the rest of the field had work to do.
From the three sixteenths, it was over. Harry Hernandez asked Hotshot Anna what she had, and quickly she kicked away from the rest of the field. Princess La Quinta chased on with interest, but could not stop Hotshot Anna from drawing clear to a five and three quarter-length victory. The Matron winner stayed on well enough to cling to second, three quarters of a length ahead of a hard-trying Union Strike. One Liz, chasing three wide, came home another half-length back.
Kyllachy Queen, Babybluesbdancing, Natural Wonder, Oh So Terrible, Marquee Miss, Full of Zip, Miss Nancy, Starlight Express, and Mines and Magic completed the order of finish.
Hotshot Anna is a four-year-old filly by Trappe Shot out of the Holy Bull mare Avalos. She was bred in Kentucky by Paul Tackett; owner/trainer Hugh Robertson purchased her for $20,000 from the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2015. The chestnut filly has now won five times in eighteen lifetime starts. Her victory in the Chicago Handicap was her first victory (and her first start) in graded company; her one other stakes victory came in last year's Northbound Pride Oaks, going a mile on Canterbury's turf course. The $55,200 winner's share of the purse brought her lifetime earnings to $223,640.
First-time graded stakes winner Harry Hernandez praised his horse, as well as the trainer and owner who gave him a chance on this stage. “I’m so proud right now,” remarked Hernandez after the race. “Wow, she’s just a great filly. I just want to thank Hugh for giving me the opportunity, especially having confidence in me since I just got [to Arlington this season]. I wanted to be close because I thought it was a better idea and it’s what Hugh told me to do, so I’ve got to go with the instructions.”
Trainer Hugh Robertson scored the eighth graded stakes of his training career -- though his most recent one before today came in 2006, with Three Hour Nap in the National Jockey Club Handicap (G3) in the National Jockey Club Handicap at Hawthorne. Hotshot Anna is the first graded stakes winner Robertson has owned on his own, though he owned his multiple graded stakes winner Three Hour Nap in partnership.
“She trained very well on the Polytrack,” commented Robertson after the race. “I thought she would run well, but I didn’t think she’d run quite that well. We named this filly after my oldest granddaughter. She’s really fast too.”
Second-place Princess La Quinta was chasing her second graded stakes victory of the meet, as she already won the Arlington Matron (G3) over a mile and an eighth on May 19. With her regular rider Carlos Marquez at Canterbury Park, jockey Sophie Doyle took the reins. "Princess La Quinta broke nice for me and put me in a lovely position,” Doyle said after the race. “Around the turn I could see [One Liz] starting to back up a little bit so that gave me better run. Coming around the quarter pole, Harry [Hernandez] had to look around and saw that I was chasing them. Once he turned, his filly just took off. Princess La Quinta felt fantastic. She moved really well and she’s a really nice and talented filly. She has a great stride to her and she’s very game. Even though the winner was gone, she still dug in to hold on for second.”
Hotshot Anna paid her backers $11.60 to win. An exacta over Princess La Quinta (7-5) returned $24.80 for each $1 wagered. The $0.50 trifecta with Union Strike third (7-5-2) came back with $50.75. A superfecta with One Liz in the lowest rung (7-5-2-11) paid $42.29 for each dime on the combination.
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