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VETERAN BRASS HAT PREPS FOR LOUISVILLE 'CAP DEFENSE WITH CHURCHILL DOWNS WORK

With a bid for a repeat victory in the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (GIII) just a week away, Fred Bradley's homebred veteran Brass Hat tuned-up for the 1 and 1/2-mile turf test with a sharp five furlong work on the dirt on Saturday morning at Churchill Downs.

The 9-year-old gelded son of Prized zipped the five-eighths mile distance in 1:00.40 under veteran jockey Charles Woods Jr., as regular rider and workout partner Calvin Borel was in Baltimore to ride Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver in the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course. The move was the third-fastest of 23 at the distance over a fast racing surface.

Trainer William "Buff" Bradley, the owner-breeder's son, is thrilled with the spark displayed by his veteran star as Brass Hat approaches his third start of the year. He opened the season with an eighth-place run behind Bearpath in the Pan American (GIII) at Gulfstream Park and followed it with a strong runner-up finish to Musketeer in the $200,000 Elkhorn (GII) on the Keeneland turf.

That runner-up finish improved Brass Hat's career recrd to 9-7-4 in 35 races and boosted his earnings to $2,087,110. Those numbers include a victory on dirt in the Donn Handicap (GI) and a runner-up finish (later vacated because of a medication infraction) in the $5 million Dubai World Cup in 2006 - highlights of a career that began with a runner-up finish in a race for $15,000 claiming horses in January 2004 at Turfway Park.

A few days after his Elkhorn run, Brass Hat traveled to Frankfort, Ky., where the farm of his owner, a former Kentucky state senator, is located. The international exploits of the veteran who was bred and raised on the elder Bradley's farm have made him a folk hero to residents near that city and Brass Hat was honored in Kentucky's capital city with a day named in his honor.

"It was so cool," recalled Buff Bradley. "I took him off the trainer and put him in a portable stall - a 10' x 20' stall that was open all the way around - and he never turned a hair. He worked the crowd like a true politician. He ate peppermints out of all the kids' hands, and Calvin came and spoke. We had two governors there - Brereton Jones and Julian Carroll - and (former Keeneland Association President) Ted Bassett came and spoke,"

The event that honored both Brass Hat and his owner-breeder was a fundraiser for a museum in Frankfort.

"It turned out to be a great day," said Buff Bradley. "He got to go home for a few days and they had a little party for him and everything. But since then he's come back to the track and done very well. We're on target to run next weekend."

The Louisville figures to offer an enticing match-up of what could be billed as the "Senior Tour" of Kentucky racing as Brass Hat's rivals could include Chrysalis Stable's Silverfoot, a three-time Louisville 'Cap winner (2004-06) who is now 10 years old.

"I've been watching him train and I'd be surprised if he didn't go in there," Bradley said. "It looks like he's doing very well, too."

Whatever happens next Saturday and the rest of the year with Brass Hat is a bonus for Bradley and his father. Their star has suffered a pair of significant injuries during his racing career, but has come back in stakes-winning form from each setback.

"I thought he was done at five," Bradley said. "So the last four years have been great. We truly didn't expect it. It wasn't going to break our hearts if he didn't get to run after everything he had already done for us. He's been something."

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