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by Gary Yunt

BRASS HAT SEEKS ELUSIVE FIRST TURF WIN IN LOUISVILLE HANDICAP – When Fred Bradley’s homebred Brass Hat made his turf debut in 2004, four of his rivals in Saturday’s Louisville Handicap (Grade III) had not been foaled.
    “Four of them? That’s pretty neat, I’ve got to tell my dad,” said trainer William “Buff” Bradley of the popular 8-year-old gelding who has yet to win in seven career turf tries.
    The Louisville Handicap will mark the fourth race back for Brass Hat since he suffered a strained suspensory ligament in his left leg last summer.
    “He has been playing when he comes off the track, which is great for an 8-year-old,” Buff Bradley said. “He is training like a 4- or 5-year-old. It is amazing how he keeps coming back. You don’t ever count him out.”
    After breaking his maiden in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park in March 2004, Bradley put Brass Hat on the grass in the Forerunner at Keeneland.
    “He is bred for the grass (by Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Prized) and he ran second to (eventual Jefferson Cup winner) Prince Arch,” Bradley said. “He was beaten only five lengths by Kitten’s Joy here in the American Turf, and Kitten’s Joy was a champion that year. He has been competitive against top horses on the grass.”
    Brass Hat’s second of three Matt Winn Turf Course tries came two years later in his first start after suffering a condylar fracture in his right front ankle a year earlier in the Lone Star Derby. Brass Hat ran seventh that day, his worst turf showing ever.
    “The rail was out that day and the first thing (jockey) Willie (Martinez) said was, ‘He’s good. Don’t worry about it.’ ” Bradley said.
    Fourth in the Louisville Handicap last year behind Lattice, Brass Hat enters Saturday’s race off a third-place finish in the Grade II Elkhorn at Keeneland.
    “I thought he ran huge at Keeneland,” Bradley said. “Maybe he flattened out a little bit at the end. (Jockey) Calvin (Borel) keeps saying I should run him on the dirt the way he is training.
    “I am not completely off the dirt with him. I’d like to go back to the Mass Cap (a race Brass Hat won in 2007). But you get in a cycle and if I had gone in the New Orleans Handicap (instead of the Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial) which may have been better for him, I would have gone in the Alysheba (on May 1). I thought the surface (grass) would be kinder for him and the distance (a mile and a half) would make it so he would not have to run so hard the whole way.”
    Brass Hat has a career record of 8-5-2 in 29 races with earnings of $1,825,814.

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