Dennis “Peaches" Geier, assistant to trainer Bret Calhoun, had a feeling about last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT) with Chamberlain Bridge.
His unwavering confidence in the horse was apparent when he told turf writers on the Churchill Downs backstretch one week prior to the race he was “sure” Chamberlain Bridge would win. Luckily, Geier didn’t have to eat his words.
Chamberlain Bridge, overcoming his rail post position, registered a thrilling come-from-behind victory when he gained the lead in the final 50 yards and prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths. The win was especially sweet for Calhoun and Geier, as one day earlier their mare Dubai Majesty captured the Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I).
The big question now is whether Geier is as positive as he was in 2010 that Chamberlain Bridge can accomplish the Turf Sprint feat.
“This year, I feel the same way (about Chamberlain Bridge), except his form has been off until his last race,” said Geier of the 7-year-old gelding by War Chant, who is owned by Carl Moore Management. “But I can’t say he’s any different than last year … especially for this last month. He’s probably (training) better this year than last year.”
In his most recent work, Chamberlain Bridge covered four furlongs on firm turf at Churchill in :49 4/5. Before that, he worked four furlongs in :49 over a sloppy track at Delaware Park Sept. 30.
Following Chamberlain Bridge’s victory in last year’s Turf Sprint, he scored in the Rail Splitter Stakes at Sam Houston Park in February, ran fourth in the Shakertown Stakes (gr. IIIT) in April, third in the Aegon Turf Sprint (gr. IIIT) in May, and sixth in a stakes at Parx Racing in June. In his most recent start, he was third in the Turf Monster (gr. IIIT) at Parx Sept. 5. All of the aforementioned races were sprints on the turf.
“The (Turf Sprint) field this year is very competitive,” said Geier, who met Calhoun in his native Texas and has worked for the conditioner around nine years. “We drew the 14, so we’re going to have to get a good trip. Last year we drew the 1, so we went from one extreme to another.
"He’s got enough speed where he could probably be mid pack and get over to save some ground," Geier added. "The main thing this year is going to be the trip. He’s coming into it super good. He's probably training the best since we've had him."
When asked what consecutive victories in the BC Turf Sprint would mean to him, Geier confessed, “I don’t know if words could describe it, really. I really don’t.”
Out of the Trempolino mare She’s Got Class, Chamberlain Bridge was bred in Kentucky by Eugene Melnyk. He was raced in his first start by his breeder, after which he was claimed by Maggi Moss.
When Calhoun claimed the gelding for $35,000 on Moore’s behalf during his 4-year-old season, he quickly advanced from claiming and allowance races to big league black-type events. Now an 11-time stakes winner, Chamberlain Bridge enters the Turf Sprint with earnings of nearly $1.7 million.
While he’s a professional on the racetrack, Geier noted how the Chamberlain Bridge isn’t lacking in quirkiness. But that’s part of his charm.
“Usually behind the gates, he doesn’t want to go in; he always does the sideways stuff,” he said. "He’s also spoiled pitifully; he wants to come in here every round and get candy. And if he doesn’t know you, he’s a little leery. We’ll be on the road jogging for the vet, and if it’s a different vet, when he gets to him or her, he backs up.
"He does have his little quirks, but as far as meanness, nothing like that. To look at him, you would say, ‘Breeders’ Cup?’ because he’s a little horse. But I believe that’s why he’s stayed so sound.”