Grade I Winner Brass Hat Returns From Injury in Track Record Victory at Churchill Downs

by: John Asher
Louisville, KY (July 8, 2007) --

Fred Bradley’s Brass Hat, away from racing for more than a year while he recovered from a leg injury, returned to action on Sunday with a track-record performance in a narrow head a victory over favored Student Council following a stretch-long duel in a $61,000 optional claiming allowance race at Churchill Downs.

The 6-year-old homebred gelding broke a 36-year-old record as he covered 1 1/16 miles over a “fast” track in a record 1:41.27 and paid $6.20, $3.80 and $2.60 as the second choice in a field of six. Student Council, who fought back under Robby Albarado when he was passed by the winner and fell just short, paid $3.40 and $2.40. Copy My Notes, who set the early pace under Calvin Borel, finished 6 ¼ lengths behind the top pair and paid $2.60 to show.

Jockey Willie Martinez was aboard Brass Hat as he erased the Churchill Downs record for 1 1/16 miles on dirt that was set by Yes Sir, who covered the distance over a frozen track in 1:41.60 on Nov. 25, 1970. It was the first race for Brass Hat since a fifth-place finish behind Seek Gold in the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) at Churchill Downs on June 17, 2006. He suffered a cracked sesamoid in his right front leg in a workout following that race and went to the sidelines while the injury healed naturally and without the need for surgery.

“We knew that he was training at his best and we knew that he could win this race – but we surely didn’t expect to break the track record, and that was just a plus,” said Martinez. “He’s just an amazing horse and we’re very fortunate to have him. I look forward to the big races down the road.”

The allowance race was a showdown of two of the most accomplished geldings in American racing in Brass Hat and Perfect Drift, but the anticipated head-to-head battle never materialized. Brass Hat, winner of the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park in 2006 and runner-up in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (GI) before he was disqualified from that position because of a medication mix-up, ran alongside Perfect Drift into the far turn, but the latter failed to respond when Brass Hat launched his winning rally. Perfect Drift, who won the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in 2003 and has earned nearly $4.7 million in his career, finished fifth and saw his losing streak grow to 15 consecutive races.

Brass Hat, who is trained by the owner’s son, William “Buff” Bradley, saw his career record improve to 7-4-0 in 16 races and his earnings improved to $1,271,617. He started his career in a race for $15,000 claiming horses and all of his earlier wins had come in stakes races.

“I thought he was doing better than last year and Willie thought he was doing better than last year, but you don’t know until you get out there and run the race,” said the younger Bradley. “I knew that Brass Hat would be back to his old self after he got a race in him, but I didn’t expect this. I think if he stays healthy, look out.”

“I’ve got no problem getting beat like that,” said Neil Howard, trainer of runner-up Student Council. “He ran good. They broke the track record, and Buff did a hell of a job bringing that horse back.”

Real Dandy finished fourth, a head behind third-place Copy My Notes and a neck in front of Perfect Drift. M B Sea finished last in a field reduced to six by the late scratches of Spellbinder and I’m Waiting for U.


BRADLEY ‘LEANING TOWARD’ GRADE I WHITNEY FOR BRASS HAT – With his track record setting return to racing behind him, trainer William “Buff” Bradley is looking at options for the resurgent Brass Hat – and a trip to Saratoga could loom in the future for the 6-year-old gelding.

Fred Bradley’s homebred son of Prized dazzled the crowd assembled for Sunday’s final racing day of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet when won a hard-fought duel with stakes veteran Student Council in his return from a year on the sidelines. The winner of the 2006 Donn Handicap (GI) won by a head under jockey Willie Martinez and stopped the clock in a record 1.41.27 for 1 1/16-miles – a winning time that erased the previous standard set by Yes Sir over a frozen track nearly 37 years earlier.

Buff Bradley, who trains Brass Hat for his father, said his veteran star was doing well on the morning after his second return from a major injury. He had not run since a fifth-place finish behind Seek Gold in last year’s Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs. He had cracked a sesamoid in his right front leg as he galloped out following a workout at the Trackside Louisville training center shortly after that race.

“He came out it good and ate up,” said Bradley. “We could tell that last night, though. He was very alert. I got to the test barn (after the race) and they had told me that he wasn’t blowing.”

Bradley will closely monitor the condition of his veteran star in the aftermath of his impressive comeback, but he is looking for the next step in Brass Hat’s 2007 campaign. He has, for the moment, narrowed that search to the $750,000 Whitney (GI) at Saratoga and the $300,000 Washington Park Handicap (GII) over Polytrack at Arlington Park. Both races are scheduled for July 28, and Bradley said he was “leaning toward” the former for Brass Hat’s return to stakes competition.

“I wish that both races were about a week further out,” he said. “If he comes out of it good and feels fresh enough, we’ll look at those races. Last night we felt like we could probably do it, but you don’t know. We’ll just have to see. We’ll have to watch how he trains and see if he came out of that race good and was not too knocked out by from it. That race would surely have to knock him back a little bit, I would think – but he didn’t show it last night.”

The victory improved Brass Hat’s career record to 7-4-0 in 16 races and his earnings rose to $1,271,617. It was the first victory outside of stakes competition for Brass Hat, who made his racing debut in a Turfway Park race for $15,000 claiming horses and notched his first victory in the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes in 2004 at Turfway Park. His other wins include last year’s Donn (in which he also set a track record) and New Orleans Handicap (GII); the 2005 Prairie Bayou at Turfway; and a pair of 2004 triumphs as a 3-year-old in the Indiana Derby (GII) and Ohio Derby (GII). He also finished second to Electrocutionist in last year’s $6 million Dubai World Cup (GI), but was later disqualified and placed last in that race because of a medication mix-up.

Bradley hopes that the Whitney option works out for Brass Hat. He has never saddled a horse at the famed Spa, but Bradley said that is up to the horse.

“We’re just ready for bigger things now,” said Bradley. “I hope he comes back good and fresh where we can maybe look at that. That’s what we’re leaning toward right now, but we’re not going to discuss anything until we see how he’s doing and how he came out of the race.”