06/16/2011 12:39PM

Parx: Chamberlain Bridge looking for old form

Coady Photography
Chamberlain Bridge, with Jamie Theriot riding, wins the Rail Splitter at Sam Houston.

Chamberlain Bridge, who has yet to display the same form in three starts this season that carried him to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last fall, looks to regroup over a turf course where he is unbeaten in two starts when he returns to suburban Philadelphia for Saturday’s inaugural running of the $200,000 Parx Dash Handicap at Parx Racing.

The Dash, scheduled for five furlongs on the grass, drew a field of nine, including Maryland shipper Ben’s Cat, who is unbeaten in four previous turf sprints, and horse-for-the-course El Churruca, who owns 6 wins and 7 seconds in 14 lifetime starts over the local course.

Now 7, Chamberlain Bridge did win a minor stakes at Sam Houston in February, but was fourth over very soft going in the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland in April and a nonthreatening third in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint on the Kentucky Derby undercard. In both of his last two races, Chamberlain Bridge’s chances were compromised by trouble with the footing.

In describing Chamberlain Bridge’s outing at Keeneland, trainer Bret Calhoun said “He’s changed his style a little bit as he’s gotten older. He’s settled back a lot more. [At Keeneland] he was up on it, but that course was a bog.”

Churchill Downs, which Calhoun considers Chamberlain Bridge’s favorite course, proved unkind as well, according to the report jockey Jamie Theriot provided to Calhoun after the race.

“Jamie said that he got shuffled back a little more than he would have liked, and going down the backstretch the ground was breaking out from underneath him,” Calhoun said. “He just couldn’t get his feet underneath him. He took him wide into the stretch, on a little firmer ground, and he made his run. It was just too late.”

In two previous visits to Parx, Chamberlain Bridge has won this track’s premier event for male turf sprinters, the $250,000 Turf Monster Handicap, in 2009 and 2010. Last year’s Turf Monster was among five stakes victories during an eight-race campaign for Chamberlain Bridge, culminated by his 1 1/2-length score at 6-1 in the Breeders’ Cup.

Ben’s Cat and El Churruca should test Chamberlain Bridge, with Ben’s Cat coming on late and El Churruca on the front end.

The 5-year-old Ben’s Cat, trained by Hall of Famer King Leatherbury, is 10 for 14 in his career and has never lost in four grass starts between five and six furlongs. Most recently, Ben’s Cat closed from fifth to take the Turf Sprint at Pimlico on the Black-Eyed Susan undercard.

El Churruca, a 6-year-old trained by Ramon Preciado, tuned up for this spot by winning his season debut in an allowance on May 28. That was just his second start since October 2009.

The field also includes Zip Quik, runner-up in the 2009 Hollywood Juvenile Championship, who returned from 16 months on the sidelines to win an allowance at Gulfstream Park in March, and Varsity, a Christophe Clement-trained 4-year-old who has 2 wins and a near-miss in 3 starts since he was switched to the turf.