Veteran turf sprinters Ben's Cat and Chamberlain Bridge, who have combined to win the past three renewals of the Turf Monster Handicap (gr. IIIT), head the field for the 2012 edition of the $350,000 race Sept. 3 at Parx Racing.
The rich five-furlong heat, in its 11th year, headlines a lucrative Labor Day program at the Philadelphia racino. Preceding it on the card are the $200,000 Turf Amazon Handicap for fillies and mares at five furlongs, and the $350,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds on the main track. The Turf Monster is the 11th race with a 5:10 p.m. EDT probable post.
The Turf Monster is a "Win & You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge event for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT) Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park.
The Jim Stable's Ben's Cat, winner of last year's Turf Monster by a half-length, looks to get back in the win column for trainer King Leatherbury following a fourth-place finish as the 6-5 favorite in the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup Handicap at Penn National Race Course July 28. The 6-year-old son of Parker's Storm Cat held the lead at mid-stretch but gave way in the final yards.
Ben's Cat has not felt the sting of defeat often in a 25-race career that includes 16 victories and earnings of $951,090. Julian Pimentel will guide the Laurel Park based dark bay gelding, the 122-pound high weight, from post 5.
Moore Management's Chamberlain Bridge accounts for the previous two Turf Monster victories as well as a third-place showing last year. He finished three-quarters of a length behind Ben's Cat. The 8-year-old War Chant gelding posted his first win in five tries this year in his most recent start Aug. 4, taking the five-furlong My Frenchman Stakes at Monmouth Park by 2 1/2 lengths as the favorite.
Brett Calhoun trains 2010 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Chamberlain Bridge, who will have Paco Lopez aboard. A 19-time winner from 44 starts with earnings of more than $1.8 million, the bay breaks from the far outside in the field of 11 under 120 pounds.
Always-tough Bridgetown comes off a victory in the 5 1/2-furlong Troy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 15 for trainer Todd Pletcher. Eugene Melnyk's 5-year-old homebred son of Speightstown had gone a year since his last win but appears to be coming back to his best form.
Joel Rosario rides Bridgetown, who has won eight of 18 starts while banking $844,700. The chestnut carries 121 pounds from post 8.
Kyma sprang a 34-1 shocker for trainer Brandon Kulp in the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup last time. The 4-year-old Belong to Me gelding came from off the pace to win by a neck over Car Thief, who returns in this spot as well for Heather Hollahan. Super Chunky, who closed a ton of ground to be a close third in the Governor's Cup, also was entered, as was fifth-place finisher Great Mills.
Royal Currier and Sean Avery, a pair of top-notch sprinters on dirt, will try to transfer that ability to turf. Royal Currier has won four of his past five starts for Patricia Farro, including the Teddy Drone Stakes at Monmouth July 29.
Sean Avery has been away nearly 13 months since he clicked in front-running style at 17-1 odds in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga for Allen Iwinski. He earned a 112 Beyer speed figure with that effort.
Ju Jitsu Jax, second to Chamberlain Bridge in the My Frenchman, and Catalactic, making his stakes debut while on a four-race win streak, complete the cast.
Inspired is the 122-pound high weight in the Turf Amazon, which attracted a field of 12 fillies and mares. Peter Blum's 5-year-old homebred has won four of seven starts this year for Iwinski. Sensible Lady, on a three-stake win streak for trainer Tim Salzman, is also a major contender.
$350,000 Turf Monster Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 11, 5:10 p.m.), 3 & Up, 5 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Car Thief (FL), J C Caraballo, 116, H Hollahan
2. Kyma (PA), D G Whitney, 119, B L Kulp
3. Catalactic (PA), S Elliott, 111, J M Baird
4. Great Mills (KY), F Pennington, 119, S M Asmussen
5. Ben's Cat (MD), J Pimentel, 122, K T Leatherbury
6. Super Chunky (FL), S Russell, 117, K M Cox
7. Royal Currier (FL), S Elliott, 119, P Farro
8. Bridgetown (FL), J Rosario, 121, T A Pletcher
9. Ju Jitsu Jax (FL), F Boyce, 116, H E Wolfendale
10. Sean Avery (KY), K Carmouche, 118, A Iwinski
11. Chamberlain Bridge (KY), P Lopez, 120, W B Calhoun