Sam-Son Farms homebred French Beret stalked the pace, took over at the top of the lane and held off a host of rivals Jan. 12 in the $100,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) on the Fair Grounds turf, notching his first win in nearly 18 months.

A 5-year-old Broad Brush gelding, French Beret broke a streak of 12 consecutive starts without a victory. Prior to the Col. Bradley, his last time in the winner’s circle had been in the July 15, 2006, Toronto Cup Stakes at Woodbine. Overall, it was French Beret’s third victory in 22 lifetime starts and his first graded stakes triumph.

Trained by Mark Frostad, French Beret’s final margin of victory was 1 ¾ lengths over Major Rhythm, who rallied late on the rail to get up by a nose over 2-1 favorite Sterwins. Multiple graded stakes winner Silverfoot, making his first start in nearly 14 months, never fired and finished eighth. The final time for 1 1/16-miles was 1:45.83.

The first six furlongs of the 4-year-olds and up event was a duel between Save Big Money and Optimer, who both finished just behind Sterwins in their most recent start, the Dec. 15 Buddy Dilberto Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds. The two rivals were virtually side-by-side through much of the backstretch this time, posting easy fractions of :24.97, :50.75 and 1:15.57.

The duel set up perfectly for French Beret, who was ridden patiently by James Graham, as he saved ground behind the leaders, then made a bid just to their outside before taking over at the top of the stretch. The other eight challengers were packed together within striking distance in the final furlong, all of them pursuing the new leader. But French Beret had plenty left for the wire, breaking his long drought with authority.

"This horse has tons of class," Graham said. "He tries his heart out every time. The distance was not going to bother him. The drying ground with a closer today, I thought would help us big.”

Going off at odds of 11-1, French Beret paid $24 to win. The exacta (9-5) with 29-1 Major Rhythm was worth a whopping $642.40, while the trifecta (9-5-4) returned $1927.20.

Though French Beret had not won in nearly a year and a half, the bay gelding was still a consistent money-earner for Sam-Son, finishing in the money in seven of 12 starts since the Toronto Cup. In fact, in 22 starts, he has been on the board 14 times, earning more than $385,000.

Out of Miswaki mare Misty Mission, French Beret was bred in Ontario. All but four of his career starts before the Col. Bradley came at Woodbine.

“He ran a good race last time," said Frostad, referring to an allowance effort at Fair Grounds Dec.9. "James had him covered up until right around the turn. He ran a big race.”

Save Big Money was fourth, followed Storm Treasure, Sidcup, Silverfoot, Gold Sound, and Optimer. Got the Last Laugh and Prom Shoes were scratched.

(Chart, Equibase)

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