SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Colonel John edged Mambo in Seattle in a photo finish Saturday to win the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Colonel John ran 1¼ miles in 2:03.20 and earned $600,000 for WinStar Farm. The Eoin Harty-trained colt paid $10.40, $5.40 and $4.30. Colonel John had not won a race since taking the Santa Anita Derby in April and finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby.
Colonel John was caught in heavy traffic as the field turned into the stretch but bulled his way through a narrow seam between horses, which put him in a clear path for a hard-fought stretch drive.
"Tizbig had to stop for me to get room," Gomez said, "and when I came out (Colonel John) had to come over the heels of another horse. He definitely showed his athleticism today."
Mambo in Seattle, ridden by Robby Albarado, paid $6.30 and $5.10. Pyro, the favorite in the 139th running of the Travers, finished third in the race for 3-year-olds, with Shaun Bridgmohan riding. He paid $3.70 to show.
At the wire, Albarado raised his whip in triumph, only to have the finish photograph determine that Colonel John had won by inches. It was the eighth Travers decided by a nose and the first since 1998. "I thought I had it, "Albarado said.
Harty said he never lost confidence in his horse. "Even with the trip he had in the Kentucky Derby I don't know if we would have beaten Big Brown that day. I'd certainly like to take him on again; maybe in the Breeders' Cup."
In other Saratoga action, Visionaire won the $250,000 King's Bishop Stakes for 3-year-olds by 2¼ lengths to give jockey Alan Garcia his fifth win of the day.
The Michael Matz-trained colt ran the 7 furlongs in 1:21.94 and earned $150,000 for Team Valor International and Vision Racing, the owners. He paid $15.60, $7.60 and $4.60.
Shakis, also ridden by Garcia, rallied to overtake War Monger and win the $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap by three-quarters of a length. It was the 8-year-old's second straight victory in the Baruch and his first victory since last year's running. He earned $120,000 for Shadwell Stable and gave trainer Kiaran McLaughlin his third win of the day. He paid $14.80, $8.40 and $6.20.
Porte Bonheur, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, upset heavily favored Indyanne, ending her undefeated streak at four races, in the 6-furlong, $110,100 Victory Ride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The Paul Duggan-trained filly ran in 1:09.51 and earned $60,060 for owner Joanna Murphy-Leopoldberger. She paid $24.60, $5.80 and $3.20.