BRASS HAT CONTINUES STRONG WORK PATTERN, RETURN NEAR - Fred Bradley's homebred Brass Hat continued to train strongly toward his return from nearly a year on the sidelines as the veteran turned in a five-furlong work on Thursday at Churchill Downs.

The 6-year-old gelded son of Prized covered the distance over a "fast" surface in 1:00.60 under jockey and regular workout partner Willie Martinez. Trainer William "Buff" Bradley, the son of the owner/breeder, breezed Brass Hat in the company of a stablemate. The move was the fifth-fastest of 15 at the distance.

"I had a horse break off in front of him and let him kind of run after [his work mate] a little bit," said Bradley. "Brass Hat finished up and got a couple of lengths in front of him. That horse probably broke four or five lengths in front."

Brass Hat is prepping for a long stay on the sidelines that followed a training mishap last summer at Trackside Louisville. He fractured a sesamoid in his right fore while pulling up following a workout over that six-furlong oval. The injury did not require surgery and he was allowed to heal on the Bradley family's 300-acre Indian Ridge Farm near Frankfort, Ky.

Bradley's star has not raced since a fifth-place finish in last year's Stephen Foster Handicap, a rare blemish on a stellar campaign that saw him win the Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park and the New Orleans Handicap (GII) at Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs. He also finished second to Electrocutionist in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (GI) at Nad Al Sheba, but was disqualified because of a medication infraction.

With Thursday's work Brass Hat remained on schedule for a return to racing sometime before the July 8 end of the 52-day Spring Meet at Churchill Downs. Bradley underwent a similar process when Brass Hat spent an extended time on the sidelines after suffering an ankle injury in the Lone Star Derby (GIII) in October of his 3-year-old season in 2004. He did not return to racing until late November of the following year, when he ran seventh in an allowance race on turf at Churchill Downs - but then launched a three-race winning streak that climaxed with his romp in the Donn.

"I don't have anything picked out yet - I just got to wait until the next condition book comes out," he said. "Last time I tried to find a race where he could just get back into running. He's been off a long time and I'm not cranking him up for it. I'd love for him to win first time, but he's going to have to come back really strong to win the first time after being off that long. We've just got to get him back going again."

Even with the disqualification in Dubai that cost Brass Hat more than $1 million in earnings, the veteran who started his career in a Turfway Park maiden race for $15,000 claiming horses has earned $1,233,473 while compiling a record of 6-4-0 in 15 races.