06/13/2004 11:00PM

Bindner on top of world

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As the spirited duel was about to reach its dramatic conclusion in the Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday at Churchill Downs, it appeared that Southern Image, the highweight and 3-2 favorite, was getting the best of his pesky rival, longshot Colonial Colony, when he finally poked his head in front.

But Colonial Colony had one final surge deep within him and prevailed by maybe an inch, completing a 62-1 upset. Walt Bindner Jr., who trains Colonial Colony for Chris Nolan's Lakeside Farms, couldn't help believe that the horse may have had a little help from a powerful outside source.

"I'm sure Danny was rooting us on," said Bindner. "Of course I thought about him after we won. I think about him every day."

Danny Hutt, Bindner's very close friend and training colleague, died unexpectedly May 14 at age 55, leaving a saddened local racing community. Bindner, 56, said the only thing missing from what was easily the greatest win of his 30-year training career was Hutt.

"It would have been great for him to be with us," he said. "Boy, would we have had a good time that night. Danny may have been the most unpretentious person I've ever known. He treated everybody the same, no matter what you did or where you came from."

Bindner, whose said his previous career highlights probably were his two wins in the Firecracker at Churchill (First and Only in 1994 and Rare Reason in 1996), said the improbable win in the $810,750 Foster "far outshines anything I've ever done in this game." The victory by Colonial Colony has to be considered in the same category as other monumental upsets in rich Midwest races in recent years, such as Rockamundo at 108-1 in the 1993 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn, Da Devil at 65-1 in the 1999 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway, and Candid Glen at 84-1 in the 2003 Explosive Bid at Fair Grounds.

"My phone went absolutely dead Saturday from all the calls I got," said Bindner. "It's great to have so many friends. The calls came in so fast, most of them went to voice mail. When I got up Sunday morning, there were another 14 messages. It was one of the greatest days of my life."

Bindner said he was using the Foster as a prep for the July 3 Cornhusker Breeders' Cup at Prairie Meadows. "Then we jump up and win it," he said. "We'll still go to Iowa, then if all goes right to the Whitney" on Aug. 7 at Saratoga.

Bindner noted that because of a mistake dating to the National Jockey Club at Hawthorne in April, the past performances for Colonial Colony have incorrectly listed him as a gelding.

"I had a bloodstock agent tell me, 'I wish you hadn't cut that horse, because I could probably get a lot of money for him now as a stallion prospect,' " said Bindner. "And I said, 'Wait a minute, I never touched him.' He's still a horse."

Colonial Colony's past performances have since been corrected.

Californians head home

Mike Machowsky, trainer of Southern Image, took the narrow loss like a good sport although he did note that Southern Image, as the 122-pound highweight, carried 11 more pounds than Colonial Colony. Also, Machowsky noted that Robby Albarado, who rode Midway Road, kept Southern Image pinned down along the rail for much of the trip.

Machowsky said he is glad the conditions for Southern Image's next start, the July 10 Hollywood Gold Cup, are weight for age. As for Albarado, Machowsky said: "I can't blame him for how he rode. He was just doing his job."

Southern Image, along with Fleur de Lis Handicap winner Adoration and several other California horses who flew here for the weekend, returned home Sunday. Trainer David Hofmans said Adoration is in for a short rest and probably will race just once or twice more before defending her title in the Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Lone Star Park.

As for the other beaten favorites in the Foster, trainer Bobby Frankel said his single fear about the race - an off track - most likely was to blame for the fade of Peace Rules to fourth while Neil Howard, trainer of Midway Road, said he "might have had a little bounce there. My horse was really laying it all out in the last 70 yards of the Pimlico Special, so maybe that accounts for him backing up the way he did Saturday. That's 20-20 hindsight, of course, but now we'll probably give him another six, seven, eight weeks before he runs again."

Both Frankel and Howard said their horses came out of the race well, as did Murray Johnson, trainer of third-place finisher Perfect Drift.

Servis looking for competition

John Servis had his opportunity but didn't take it. Servis, the trainer of Smarty Jones, made the trophy presentation to the connections of the victorious Suave following the Northern Dancer Stakes on Saturday but neglected to ask trainer Paul McGee to think about bringing Suave to Philadelphia Park to help him fill the possible next start for Smarty Jones, the $750,000 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 6.

Suave, bred and owned by Jay Em Ess Stable, restored his standing as a highly useful 3-year-old with his three-length win in the Northern Dancer.

"John's going to need help getting anybody to run against Smarty Jones," said McGee, adding that the next start for Suave has not been determined.

Servis was at Churchill with his family and the owners and breeders of Smarty Jones, Roy and Patricia Chapman, to be presented with their engraved Kentucky Derby trophies at a ceremony between races Saturday.

Immediate success for Hernandez

It took all of one mount for Puerto Rico native Rafael Hernandez to get his first win at Churchill. Hernandez, 19, upset the third race Sunday when Superlative Gain, a 42-1 shot trained by Roger Anderson, rallied for a 2 1/2-length triumph in a bottom-level maiden-claiming sprint.

Hernandez, whose cousin Herb Rivera Jr., now works as a racing official at Tampa Bay Downs and Great Lakes Downs after a long and successful career as a jockey, is represented by agent Steve Elzey. "This was his 18th career win," said Elzey. "He has the 'bug' for another 10 months or so."

It was quite a weekend for Elzey and his Rafaels: Elzey's other jockey, Rafael Bejarano, rode Colonial Colony in the Foster and continues to lead the Churchill jockey standings.

Collins hanging up tack

Rhonda Collins has ridden her last race. Collins, who is moving from Kentucky to California to work full-time as a commentator for Television Games Network, finished second in her career finale Sunday at Indiana Downs, where Class Attack was beaten just a neck in the ninth and final race.

"I'll admit I was a little disappointed not to go out with a win," said Collins. "But all in all I really enjoyed my career. Now it's time to move on."

Collins, 33, rode competitively for 10 years in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana, winning 312 races from 3,154 attempts. Her mounts earned over $2.9 million.

* Michael McGary, the jockey agent commonly known as Clarence, said Churchill officials have informed him that his banishment from the racetrack property will end Aug. 15. Clarence has been barred since May 16, when he was escorted off the property for signing an IRS form for another patron's winning ticket.

Meanwhile, Clarence no longer is the agent for veteran jockey Dean Butler, who has hired Larry Edwards to represent him.

* Churchill officials were hoping that a big pick six carryover would await fans here Wednesday, but it was not to be. None of the winning horses in the Sunday pick six, which started with a $70,884 carryover, paid better than 6-1, and three were favorites. The pick six handle Sunday was $176,266, with each perfect ticket returning $14,830.