Colonial Colony, the longest shot in the field at odds of 62-1 with 12 losses in a row, prevailed in a thrilling stretch drive with favored Southern Image to capture the $810,750 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) by a nose Saturday at Churchill Downs on a sloppy track.
"He may never have to win again after this," winning trainer Walter Bindner said. "This will take us a long ways."
Talk about turnarounds. Southern Image, one of the two top-rated handicap horses in the country, had won five races in a row, including grade I wins in the Malibu and Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita and the Pimlico Special at Laurel Park in his last start May 14. Colonial Colony, a 6-year-old horse by Pleasant Colony, by contrast, hadn't won since February 2003.
He paid a Foster Handicap record $127.20, $22 and $5.40 for the victory, his fourth in 29 lifetime starts.
``I was never confident at all until the photo came in,'' said Bindner, who won a graded stakes for only the fourth time in his 30-year career.
It helped that Colonial Colony, who was ridden by Rafael Bejarano, carried just 111 pounds, 11 less than the top-weighted Southern Image. And Southern Image, making his first start on an off-track, didn't have the best of trips under Victor Espinoza. The Halo's Image
4-year-old was boxed in on the inside much of the way by Midway Road while tasting mud from the pacesetting Peace Rules.
Southern Image angled his way between horses in upper stretch and engaged Peace Rules while edging past down the stretch. But he couldn't hold off Colonial Colony, who benefited from a trouble-free trip on the outside and refused to yield in a heart-pounding finish.
"When I looked to move him, I had a lot of horse,'' Bejarano said.
It appeared that Southern Image, under Espinoza's hard left-handed whipping, was nearly home in front as they closed in on the wire, but Colonial Colony came back to just get up under hand urging from Bejarano.
``He was going so fast around such good horses (On the final turn) that it stunned me,'' said Bindner.
It was the second graded win of the day for Bejarano, who also guided Suave to a three-length win over J Town in the $232,400 Grade 3 Northern Dancer for 3-year-olds.
Defending Foster champion Perfect Drift, ridden by Pat Day, was a third, five lengths behind in a field of six. The time for the 1 1/8-mile test was 1:50 2/5 on a track rated sloppy.
Peace Rules set surprisingly strong early fractions of :23 4/5, :47 3/5 and 1:12 2/5 while left alone on the lead.
Colonial Colony earned $502,665 for owners Lakeside Farms to increase his bankroll to $815,605.
Chris Nolan bred the winner, who is out of the Northern Fashion mare Jen's Fashion, in Kentucky.
Southern Image returned $3.40 and $2.60. Perfect Drift was $3.40 to show. The exacta was worth $348.20.
Peace Rules, Best Minister and Midway Road completed the order.