07/15/2003 11:00PM

A busy weekend for trainer Bindner


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Walter Bindner Jr. was sporting a smart red "Seabiscuit" cap when he was encountered in his shed row here the other morning.

"Cost me $1,500," joked the trainer, who had purchased a package at a charity auction consisting of two ball caps; a couple of T-shirts; the book "Seabiscuit"; and a pass to the premiere of the widely anticipated movie based on that book in Louisville, Ky., on Friday evening.

For Bindner, the trip to Louisville will be a homecoming. But the timing could have been better, he acknowledges, as he will be back at Woodbine the very next day to put the finishing touches on Colonial Colony's preparation for Sunday's Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes.

Colonial Colony, owned by Lakeside Farm, is one of 14 horses trained here by Bindner, who is racing a division at Woodbine for the first time.

Bindner, 55, was born in Louisville and spent seven years as a jockey, riding mainly in Kentucky, before hanging up his tack in 1973.

"I was tired of fighting weight," he said, "and I wasn't making enough money to make it worth my while. Anyway, I'd decided at an early age I was going to be a trainer."

Bindner launched his new career in 1974, and had alternated between summers in Kentucky and winters in New Orleans before taking a string to Arlington last year.

"I'd been watching Woodbine for a couple of years, and wanted to get up here," said the trainer, whose wish was granted when some stalls became available early this summer.

Bindner, who shipped in at the end of May, has seen limited action so far, starting just three horses and recording a third-place finish.

But he will be looking to pick up the pace in short order, contesting his first local stakes with Colonial Colony in Sunday's $300,000 feature over 1 3/8 miles of turf.

Colonial Colony has been keeping top company in the United States this year and comes into the Chinese Cultural Centre off a fifth-place finish behind Perfect Drift, Mineshaft, and Aldebaran in the Grade 1 Steven Foster at Churchill Downs June 14.

Prior to that, Colonial Colony had finished fourth in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special, won by Mineshaft, and run well in three other main-track outings this year at three different racetracks.

While Sunday's stakes will be Colonial Colony's first turf start of the year, Bindner is confident that the horse will handle the transition based on his effectiveness on the surface earlier in his career.

"He's run competitively on the grass," said Bindner.

Colonial Colony has won 2 of 11 turf outings and finished in the money seven times.

"His improvement this year is not based on the move to dirt," Bindner said. "It's because we gave him some time off, freshened him up."

Colonial Colony, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred, hadn't had a serious vacation since beginning his career in the spring of 2001. He was put away early last summer and did not see action again until February.

Package Store needs a prep

Bindner also is looking forward to the local debut of Package Store, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred whom he trains for Eutrophia Farm.

Package Store has made his last 11 starts on turf, winning three times and finishing second or third six times. He has three second-place finishes including in last year's Hill Prince and Lexington at Belmont. He has been knocking on the stakes door again recently, finishing third in both the June 15 Sea o'Erin at Arlington and the July 5 Firecracker at Churchill Downs.

The Sea o'Erin and Firecracker both were run over one mile, which would suggest that Package Store could be a viable prospect for the Grade 1, $1 million Atto Mile here Sept. 14.

In the meantime, Bindner will be looking for a suitable spot for Package Store. He had considered running him in a classified allowance over one mile of grass here Friday.

"I toyed with the idea," said the trainer, "but it was just a bit close to the Firecracker."

The point turned out to be moot as the $89,000 allowance race did not fill, leaving a first-level allowance as Friday's nominal feature.

Restricted to Ontario-sired fillies and mares, the seven-furlong race has attracted a field of six and could mark the spot for a long overdue breakthrough by Fancy Drinks.

Trained by Barry Swatuk, Fancy Drinks has been showing the signs in her last three outings, including a second-place finish in her lone try at this distance July 9.

Never Blue, who won her maiden in smart fashion at seven furlongs in her last start June 20, has worked a bullet four furlongs in the interim and is the filly to beat.

Maiden race on turf

Bindner has an entrant on Friday's card, with Steady Streak slated to make his local bow in a maiden special weight race over 1 1/16 miles of turf.

Steady Streak, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old gelding by Kris S., is a logical contender but will have to deal with Excellent Cut, who has finished second in each of his two turf outings.

Excellent Cut, trained by Roger Attfield, is a full brother to Perfect Soul, who is the horse to beat in the Chinese Cultural Centre.