LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- It definitely looked like Chamberlain Bridge could win the Aegon Turf Sprint Stakes on Friday at soggy Churchill Downs. The way he won it, that wasn't so easy to see.
Tonged by the gate-crew when he grew fractious in the gate, away slightly slow at the start, Chamberlain Bridge was taken out of his normal pace-pressing game. It looked like all might be lost for Chamberlain Bridge on the far turn, but Chamberlain Bridge rallied through the stretch under Garrett Gomez, beating fellow closer Cannonball by a neck in the Grade 3, $100,000 Turf Sprint.
"Absolutely," said trainer Bret Calhoun, asked if he was concerned about Chamberlain Bridge's position. "Down the backstretch and around the far turn, I didn't think he was going to get anything."
Calhoun won this race for the second straight year, having captured the 2008 edition with Mr. Nightlinger. Chamberlain Bridge looked last year like he might have a hair less quality than Mr. Nightlinger, but now one has to wonder. Claimed for $35,000, Chamberlain Bridge has been a solid turf-sprint stakes horse for more than a year now. The change in tactics was only the latest sign of his solidity.
Jazz Nation made the early lead Friday, pressed by long-layoff horse Smart Enough through fractions of 22.32 seconds for the quarter and 44.90 for the half. Smart Enough took a clear lead at the top of the stretch, but quickly was tackled by Chamberlain Bride and, one path farther outside, Cannonball. It was the horse in between, Chamberlain Bridge, going the best, with Cannonball a half-length better than Smart Enough for second. Winning time for the five furlongs on a "good" course was 57.06 seconds. Chamberlain Bridge paid $5.60 as the favorite.