Brass Hat still going strong at 9

By Marty McGee

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The curtain comes down on another Keeneland meet Friday, but not before Brass Hat looks to take another bow before his fans.

The Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes helps to close the 15-day Keeneland spring meet, and Brass Hat looks as good as any in a field of 12 older horses. Buff Bradley, who trains 9-year-old Brass Hat for his father, Fred, said that might not have been the case if Cloudy's Knight had not been withdrawn from consideration because of a recent injury. Now, the Elkhorn sports one of those looks where pretty much anybody can win.

"I was looking for that one horse, Cloudy's Knight, and I told my dad when he didn't go in that we're as good as anything in there," Bradley said. "I actually thought the race could've come up a lot tougher than it did, although it is very well-matched."

Brass Hat, with Calvin Borel to ride, will break from post 11 in the 25th running of the $200,000 Elkhorn, which is run around three turns at 1 1/2 miles on the turf.

Brass Hat has earned more than $2 million in a storybook career that doesn't even count the $1.2 million from which he was disqualified for a medication violation after finishing second in the 2006 Dubai World Cup. Clearly, the gelding is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and Bradley is thankful Brass Hat is as sound as ever and still stakes-worthy. The gelding has raced once since September, finishing eighth in the March 27 Pan American at Gulfstream when "there was a very slow pace and we got further back than we wanted to be," Bradley said.

"Every race we get from him is a blessing," Bradley said. "He's been training up to this beautifully. Calvin worked him the other day and said he can't believe how good he feels, and he's 9 years old. He's ready to go."

Other major threats in the Elkhorn include Bearpath, the upset winner of the Grade 3 Pan American, along with Sudden War, Expansion, Musketier, and Demarcation.

First post for the 10-race closing-day card is 1:05 p.m. Eastern. Live action on the Kentucky circuit moves to Churchill Downs on Saturday.