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Resilient Brass Hat breaks Churchill mark

6-YEAR-OLD RETURNS WINNER AFTER SECOND INJURY

MWALL@HERALD-LEADER.COM

Brass Hat broke a 36-year-old track record here yesterday, prompting jockey Willie Martinez to dub him the Seabiscuit of Kentucky.

Even if he's not the famous Seabiscuit of the novel and movie, Brass Hat's life story reads like a book.

Yesterday the 6-year-old son of Prized made his second return to racing after suffering his second broken leg, an injury which kept him away from the races for a year.

Once out of the starting gate, however, he didn't just win his race. He won the 11/16-mile allowance race in 1:41.27 after out-gaming the favorite, Student Council, in a thrilling stretch battle, holding him off at the finish by a head on closing day of Churchill Downs' spring-summer meet.

Among those farther back was the career-winner of $4.7 million, Perfect Drift. He finished fifth of the six who started.

By chance, both Perfect Drift and Brass Hat ended up in this race which was a step below a stakes race.

Perfect Drift was entered in hopes of setting him back on a winning course, particularly after his most recent race when he finished last. The race also seemed a good fit for Brass Hat on his first step back into competition.

But as trainer Buff Bradley said, this allowance race did not suffer any slouches. Certainly, Student Council forced Brass Hat to run through the stretch as though he were racing in a stakes.

Bradley appeared pleasantly stunned by Brass Hat's record-breaking performance. He had said before the race he was not even sure Brass Hat would win his first time back after being away so long.

"Never did I dream," Bradley said about eclipsing the 36-year-old record.

"I'm not surprised, but I'm tickled," said Brass Hat's owner, former Kentucky state senator Fred Bradley. He's the trainer's father.

Yet Fred Bradley said he also thought Student Council had the better of Brass Hat partway through the stretch.

"I thought he was going to lose the race," Fred Bradley said.

At the head of the stretch, the owner's trainer-son said he thought that at worst he'd be second, thus for a horse who'd been off for a long time, "at that point he'd run a hell of a race, already."

As a slight second choice to the favorite, Brass Hat paid a win mutuel of $6.20. Buff Bradley said immediately after the race that he would have to consult with the gelding's owner before deciding on their next career move.

After breaking his leg the first time, Brass Hat soon got back into top form and won three consecutive stakes, capped off with the Grade I Donn Handicap.

Those winning races occurred in 2005 and 2006 after Brass Hat recovered from a fracture to his cannon (shin) bone. Then, during a workout early last summer, Brass Hat fractured a sesamoid (ankle) bone in the same leg. For the second time, he has returned to winning form.

An overflow crowd of Bradley relatives and friends jammed into the winner's circle with the horse.

"Even walking over here (on the way to saddling for the race), people were yelling at us," Buff Bradley said. "That was fun. That was exciting, for a little old allowance race."

"I love for people to love him," Bradley said, "because it keeps people interested in this sport. And as long as he's sound, he'll stay around and race."



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