French Beret, with James Graham in the irons, won the $100,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) for the second consecutive year, putting his nose down perfectly at the wire to edge Golden Yank in a thrilling photo finish Jan. 10 at Fair Grounds.
Trained by Mark Frostad, Sam-Son Farms’ French Beret was winless in 11 starts since taking the 2008 Bradley Handicap by 1 3/4 lengths under Graham. But in the latest edition, the 6-year-old son of Broad Brush stayed close to the pace, split horses at the top of the lane and outdueled rivals Wise River and Golden Yank after those three engaged in a long stretch drive.
In the final sixteenth, French Beret charged between horses and eventually wore down Wise River, who had taken the lead from pacesetter Acting Zippy while rounding the final turn. But the bay gelding still had ground to make up on Golden Yank, who took a narrow advantage in the final yards under Jamie Theriot on the outside. It took a photo to determine that French Beret won by a nose.
The final time for about 1 1/16 miles on a turf labeled ‘good’ was 1:44.98, nearly a full second faster than the winning time he ran last year. Golden Yank was a half-length in front third-place Wise River. Classic Campaign was fourth in a field of nine older horses.
“He gives you everything he’s got,” Graham said after the race. “He loves this place for some reason. I had my head down and riding him hard down the lane. In the last jump he threw himself on the wire.”
Acting Zippy, who eventually tired to finish last, set the pace by clicking off fractions of :22.98, :47.38 and 1:13.58. Wise River stalked the leader, while French Beret was in third, but more than 10 lengths from the front in the early going. The winner moved into striking position nearing the final turn.
“He got a great ride,” Frostad said. “You never quite know when he’s going to show up, but when he does, he gets the job done.”
French Beret, who is out of the Miswaki mare Misty Mission, was bred in Canada by his owners. Despite winning only once in 2008 he hit the board five times, including a runner-up finish in his 2008 finale, an optional claimer Dec. 19 at Fair Grounds when he lost to Wise River by just three parts of a length.
French Beret is now 4-6-10 from 34 lifetime starts and has earned $645,114.
The winner paid $6.40, $3.20 and $2.40 as the favorite. The exacta (1-9) returned $27.80, while the trifecta (1-9-4) was worth $99.