Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, July 05, 2012

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/05/2012 #

In Today's Notes: 'Chamberlain' Tries to 'Bridge' Age Gap in Arlington Sprint; Birdie Beats Par: Arlington Sprint Trumps Summit of Speed


Carl Moore Management's Chamberlain Bridge culminated his 2010 campaign with a solid 1 1/2-length tally in the Grade II Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Earlier that season, he was the dominant 4 1/2-length winner of the $150,000 Arlington Sprint.

The altered son of War Chant visited the winner's circle in five of his eight starts that year – with all of the wins coming in stakes races – and was never off the board in his three other trips to the post.

Last season was a different story. Although Chamberlain Bridge bookended the year with two stakes wins – they were his only two wins from eight starts. The defense of his Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint title resulted in an eighth-place run, but a little more than a month later he was the one-length winner of Fair Grounds' $75,000 Bonapaw Stakes on Dec. 17.

In his only other start last winter in New Orleans in February's $75,000 Colonel Power Stakes, Chamberlain Bridge also ran well, finishing second by a length to Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein's Country Day – one of the top grass sprinters in the nation. However, in his two other starts this year, he finished seventh in Keeneland's Grade III Shakertown April 15 and sixth in Churchill's Grade III Turf Sprint May 5, beaten six lengths both times.

As an 8-year-old gelding winless this season, is it possibly the time to say the career of Chamberlain Bridge is over?

"He's a funny horse," said trainer Bret Calhoun, speaking over the phone from New Jersey on Thursday morning. "He likes to pick his spots. You just never know when he's going to bear down and give you his 'A' race anymore. He has definitely lost his consistency and he just seems to do his thing when he wants to.

"It's become a mental thing with him now," Calhoun said. "Physically, there seems to be absolutely nothing wrong with him. It would be really easy to retire him if he was showing signs of any physical problems but he continues to train extremely well in the mornings. He still really enjoys training and he starts to get bored and listless if I try to ease up on his training schedule.

"His first two races this year at Fair Grounds were both good races for him, but his two since then – not so good," Calhoun said. "Having said that, I should also say that he's never run particularly well at Keeneland and maybe in that race at Churchill I think it might have been just the short turn-around time that got to him.

"I doesn't seem like the weather affects him," Calhoun said when asked if the recent unseasonably hot weather in the Midwest would bother Chamberlain Bridge on Saturday. "He has traveled all over the country during the summer months throughout his career and it never has been a problem for him. However, if he doesn't run too well this weekend, and if he doesn't turn the corner one of his races pretty soon, it might be time to think about some other options in regards to his future.

"Right now, I don't think his racing career is finished because of the way he's been training in the mornings," Calhoun concluded. "I won't be there on Saturday and 'Peaches' (Geier, Calhoun's assistant) won't be there either, but we are sending the horse to Peaches' brother Greg. He'll be in Greg's barn up there at Arlington. We are hoping the horse runs a good race this weekend. I have no reason right now to think that he won't."

In the days leading up to Saturday's Arlington Sprint, trainer Tom Amoss vacillated on whether to send his 4-year-old gelding Birdie Beats Par, owned by Late Night Stables, to Chicago for this weekend's feature or to Miami for Calder's Summit of Speed on the same afternoon.

"When I found out that there was no plane scheduled for Calder for this weekend," said Amoss earlier this week, "that made the decision a lot easier for me."

How was Birdie Beats Par, who closed out his 2011 campaign with back-to-back turf wins over Kentucky's Lexington and Louisville lawns doing so far this season?

"His first race back (over the synthetic surface at Pennsylvania's Presque Isle Downs) was not a good one," said Amoss, "and I could find no reason for it. I wanted to give him another opportunity wherever he fit best."

Last year Birdie Beats Par broke his maiden with a 1 1/2-length score over the main track at Fair Grounds in a race taken off the grass and run on the main track. He won at next asking in "non-winners-of-two" allowance company at Keeneland by 3 1/4-lengths. Three races later he came to Chicago for the 2011 Arlington Sprint over Arlington's grass and finished fourth, beaten less than a length for all of it while still a sophomore racing against older rivals.