A year ago at this time, trainer Bret Calhoun wasn’t quite sure if advancing age might finally have caught up to Chamberlain Bridge. The 2010 Grade II Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint champion owned by Carl Moore Management had lost six races in a row – a string of successive defeats far longer than he’d ever experienced.
However, then came last year’s $75,000 Bonapaw at Fair Grounds, and Chamberlain Bridge responded to that challenge with a one-length victory. On Saturday, the 2012 Bonapaw awaits the gallant gelding who will become a 9-year-old on New Year’s Day.
“He’s pretty proud of himself right now,” said Calhoun Friday morning during training hours. “He’s run four or five good races in a row, and in one of them he had some problems in the gate. He’s been a lot more consistent lately. A few times last year he seemed to be just going through the motions and wasn’t trying as hard sometimes as others. So we made a few changes in his training, and now we’re trying to give him more space between his races.
“So far, he seems to have responded to that,” said Calhoun. “He’s still as sound and still as healthy as ever, so we’re just going to hope he gives us another good effort tomorrow.”
Two years junior to Chamberlain Bridge, but not exactly a yearling himself is Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Cash Refund, who most recently finished third in Fair Grounds’ $98,000 Thanksgiving Handicap on Nov. 22 after finishing second by a nose in that same opening day fixture a year ago. Cash Refund, who will be one of Chamberlain Bridge’s challengers in the Bonapaw, will be running on the grass for the first time in his career although that career already consists of 20 lifetime starts.
“We just decided to give him this opportunity to see if he can handle the turf,” said trainer Steve Margolis Friday morning. “It might be better for him than to keep facing (Maggi Moss’s) Delaunay and (Brittlyn Stable’s) Gantry again.”
FAIR GROUNDS OAKS WINNER DAISY DEVINE SET FOR SATURDAY’S BLUSHING K.D. ’CAP
James Miller’s Daisy Devine, half-length heroine of the 2011 Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks, was serene as silk as she responded favorably to strokes down her nose Friday morning in her stall at the Crescent City oval.
“She can be gentle, but she can be a wild woman when she wants to be,” said her trainer Andy McKeever of his stable star. “It seems like there’s always something different that comes up with her. Just little things, and never the same thing twice, but she keeps having little setbacks that interrupt our plans for her. Most recently, it was a little skin disease that she came down with after her last race.”
That last race was a victory in Churchill’s Grade III Cardinal Handicap Nov. 10 over the Louisville lawn, and grass is the surface she has relished in her last seven starts and is slated for once again in the $75,000 Blushing K. D. Handicap on Santa Super Saturday at Fair Grounds.
Was grass racing alone strictly in her future?
“It doesn’t have to be,” said McKeever. “There’s an outside chance we might take a look at something like the (listed) New Orleans Ladies (at 1 1/16- miles on the main track) while we’re down here, especially if it looked like that race was going to come up light. But the thing is - you never know what you can plan for her because she seems to keep having little things that come up to get in the way.
“Right now, I would say that our long-range objective for her is (Keeneland’s Grade I) Jenny Wiley,” McKeever said of the grass race Daisy Devine won last April, “but that’s miles away.”
JAMES STREET TO TRY TURF FIRST TIME FOR TRAINER JOSIE CARROLL
Melnyk Racing Stables’ James Street has run over the Gulfstream grass twice during his career without success, but will be trying that surface for the first time Saturday since coming under the tutelage of trainer Josie Carroll.
The Canadian conditioner is newly-arrived in New Orleans following an unusually long Woodbine session where she saddled three winners during the last week of that meeting north of the border.
“He’s been training really well,” said Carroll Friday morning of James Street, who is the morning line favorite for Fair Grounds’ $75,000 “Buddy” Diliberto Memorial Handicap over the Stall-Wilson turf on Santa Super Saturday. “However, since I’ve had him he has only run over the Polytrack surface. We’ll have to see how he handles the turf tomorrow. His pedigree (by El Prado out of an Unbridled mare) says he should be able to do it.”
In his last trip to the post, James Street won the Grade II Autumn at Woodbine Nov. 10, but also captured the Grade III Seagram Cup over Polytrack in August of 2011.