Favored Chamberlain Bridge, a former claimer that had lost two in a row, overcame a rough start and bounced back in the $112,800 Aegon Turf Sprint Stakes (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) May 1 at Churchill Downs. He charged down the stretch late and held off the rallying Cannonball by a neck to score his first graded win.
Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Chamberlain Bridge covered five furlongs over a "yielding" course in :57.06 while scoring his ninth victory in 18 career races. This was his first graded stakes score.
A 5-year-old gelded son of War Chant out of the Trempolino mare She’s Got Class, Chamberlain Bridge came into the Aegon off of a close third-place finish in the April 11 Shakertown Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland and a ninth in the March 14 Turf Dash at Tampa Bay Downs. He had started his 2009 campaign with a three-length win in the Colonel Power Stakes at Fair Grounds Feb. 7. Chamberlain Bridge’s effort in the Aegon Turf marked the third win from three starts over Churchill’s Matt Winn Turf Course.
The break at the start was rough, and Chamberlain Bridge got bumped, but he recovered quickly and stayed close while racing in the third position. Longhshot Jazz Nation was the early leader, setting fractions of :22.32 for the first quarter mile and :44.90 for the half while being stalked by Smart Enough.
“I thought we might be the lone speed in there,” said Bret Calhoun, who trains Chamberlain Bridge. “But he was fractious in the gate, and he broke a little tardy. I was concerned all the way down the backside because he’s never run like that. I thought we weren’t going to get anything. This was the first time he’s shown us a different dimension, and it wasn’t by design. But he loves this turf course.”
Chamberlain Bridge made his big move four wide late in the turn and passed Smart Enough deep in the stretch while the surging Cannonball challenged on the far outside. But Chamberlain Bridge dug in and held on.
“When he gets behind horses on the inside, it takes some of his speed away,” Gomez said. “The horse that was free-wheeling on the lead started to come back quickly. But then I had a little trouble getting my horse focused. But once I did, he came home well.”
Chamberlain Bridge returned $5.60, $3.20, and $2.60 to his backers. Cannonball paid $3.80 and $2.80. Smart Enough returned $2.60.
Owned by Carl Moore Management, Chamberlain Bridge is the second straight Aegon Turf winner for Calhoun, who won the 2008 edition of the race with Carl Moore Management and Martin Racing Stable’s Mr. Nightlinger. The bay was bred in Kentucky by Eugene Melnyk.
The Aegon Sprint was the first of six stakes, five of them graded, on the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) card that featured 12 races.