05/15/2009 12:00AM

Mr. Nightlinger wires McKay Turf Sprint


BALTIMORE - Trainer Bret Calhoun has a problem - the kind of problem you'd like to have. Chamberlain Bridge won the Aegon Turf Sprint during Derby Week at Churchill Downs, and on Friday at Pimlico, Mr. Nightlinger was at least as impressive capturing the $98,500 Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths.

"I've got to find a way to keep those two apart," Calhoun said after the McKay.

Mr. Nightlinger ($6.40) finished fifth in the April 11 Shakertown at Keeneland in his first start after an 11th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last fall at Santa Anita. A quarter crack had compromised his training for the comeback start, and Calhoun predicted improvement Friday in Baltimore.


Urged out of the gate by jockey Jamie Theriot after breaking from post 10, Mr. Nightlinger got some early inside pressure from Natural Seven as he went an opening quarter-mile in 21.95 seconds, and hit the half in a blazing 44.35. But Mr. Nightlinger shrugged off his pace foes in upper stretch, and no one really made a run at him.

"At five-eighths, you can just let him do his thing," Theriot said. "He showed in the past he can handle the pressure."

Despite the fast half-mile split, Mr. Nightlinger turned in a sub-12-second final furlong for a final time of 56.29 for five furlongs on firm turf, about 0.60 of a second slower than the course record.

Blue Sailor finished second, a neck in front of Rouse the Cat. Favored Heros Reward never kicked into gear, and finished fifth.