JULY 11, 2007

by James Scully

LAVA MAN (Slew City Slew), FLASHY BULL (Holy Bull), POLITICAL FORCE (Unbridled's Song), ANY GIVEN SATURDAY (Distorted Humor) and BRASS HAT (Prized) all recorded noteworthy victories since our last installment, but we'll start with INVASOR (Arg). Unbeaten in five U.S. starts, the 2006 Horse of the Year suffered a fractured sesamoid in his right hind ankle while tuning up for the June 30 Suburban H. (G1) and was retired to his owner's Shadwell Farm near Lexington, Kentucky. The loss is a huge blow to the handicap division, especially in regards to the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Monmouth Park. The top contenders for the 1 1/4-mile event are now all three-year-olds.

Brass Hat suffered his second potentially career-ending injury last summer, a non-displaced sesamoid fracture in his right front ankle. He made an amazing recovery from a condylar fracture of his right front cannon bone in 2004, winning three straight stakes, including last year's Donn, before finishing second in the Dubai World Cup (disqualified due to a medication violation). However, it was difficult to envision Brass Hat returning at the same level following another serious setback last year.

Kudos to William "Buff" Bradley. The conditioner did a marvelous job bringing Brass Hat back in top shape, saddling the six-year-old gelding to a track record-breaking victory in a tough allowance/optional claiming race on Churchill's closing day (July 8). Brass Hat stalked the pace in third until launching a wide bid off the far turn, and battled through the stretch with the favorite, stakes winner and Razorback runner-up STUDENT COUNCIL (Kingmambo), before prevailing by a head in the 1 1/16-mile event. His courageous performance led to Seabiscuit comparisons from jockey Willie Martinez, and Brass Hat is a feel-good story that Thoroughbred racing fans can revel in.

"I think if he stays healthy, look out," Bradley said.

Brass Hat, who broke a 37-year-old track record, could make his next start in the Whitney on July 28 at Saratoga. I'm one of many who will be rooting for him.