05/06/2008 11:00PM

Chambers picks up where he left off


AUBURN, Wash. - Local fans got a taste on Sunday of what was a steady diet for patrons of Turf Paradise last winter when trainer Mike Chambers sent out his first two starters at the meeting. Chambers saddled the uncoupled entry of Nationhood and Chhaya Dance for the $50,000 Seattle Handicap at six furlongs, then watched them finish one-two. Nationhood held off the late charge of his stablemate to prevail by a neck under rider Ricky Frazier in 1:08.40.

With a win and a second from two starters, Chambers's win percentage at the meeting stands at 50 percent. That is only slightly better than the 41 percent (82 for 202) winning clip the trainer maintained throughout the Sept. 1-to-May 4 Turf Paradise meeting and the 46 percent (65 for 140) success rate he has registered since the first of the year.

"I've never had a run like this," said Chambers. "I know there are some people who think I must be cheating, but the truth is that most of my horses came from California and we bought them at a discount. The owners don't mind running them where they can win, and when you have owners like that, it is really pretty easy."

Chambers has long been well known and highly respected in this area for his horsemanship. He was always among the highest-percentage trainers at Longacres, and last year, when he resumed racing at Emerald Downs for the first time in many years, he won 17 of 52 starts, or 33 percent.

But most horsemen would take issue with the notion that what Chambers has done is easy. Much of the trainer's success has come with a package of well-bred horses whom Chambers bought at a steep discount in March of last year. Those who had been sold at auction had gone for big prices, and those who were homebreds were by stallions with six-figure stud fees, yet their former connections were willing to let them go cheap.

"It's not so easy to get horses like that to the races, let alone win with them," said trainer Bob Meeking. "People don't give up on million-dollar yearlings for no reason."

Chambers has been able to win with those horses repeatedly. Most were campaigned hard at Turf Paradise, however. Chambers was locked in a hot battle for leading trainer with Keith Bennett, and he fired a lot of bullets before falling five wins shy of his rival. Does he have enough fresh horses to maintain his run at Emerald Downs?

"I think so," said Chambers. "We just bought another package of 12 horses, so I think we'll be all right."

No Constraints works for U.S. Bank

No Constraints, last year's Washington-bred juvenile filly champ, worked six furlongs from the gate in company with stablemate Hemieledo on Sunday in preparation for Saturday's $50,000 U.S. Bank Stakes at six furlongs, according to trainer Tim McCanna. The work was officially recorded as a five-furlong drill in a slow 1:05.40, and McCanna was skeptical of that clocking, but he was not inclined to argue.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "We know she has speed, so we weren't asking her to go fast. We just wanted to get some air in her. I thought she worked well. She is kind of a waspy little thing, and I didn't want to stress her too much. The important thing with her is to keep her grounded."

Last year's 2-year-old filly division at Emerald was not deep, and the division's undisputed star, Smarty Deb, is in training at Santa Anita with trainer Carla Gaines. Even so, McCanna isn't expecting an easy race in the U.S. Bank.

"There are always some horses who have developed over the winter," he said. "I think No Constraints has come along well from 2 to 3, but maybe some of the others have come along even better. It's a whole new ball game now."

Westsideclyde pointed for FSN Cap

Westsideclyde turned in his best workout of the spring last Saturday, when he sped a half mile in 47.60 seconds, the second-fastest of 30 half-mile works on the day's tab. It was the fourth work for the 6-year-old Westsideclyde, who won two stakes last spring before being sidelined with a bone chip in his knee.

"He worked well, and he came out of it well," said trainer Craig Roberts. "He'll breeze five furlongs this week, then we'll try to make a decision about running him in the stakes on the 26th," meaning the 6 1/2-furlong FSN Handicap.

"I'd like to run him in that race if we can," said Roberts. "I don't want him to get too far behind the other horses. On the other hand, if he is not ready, I don't want to rush him. I'll have to let him tell us what to do."