Less than a month into the Ellis Park meet, Buff Bradley finds himself atop the trainer standings, having sent out five winners. He is just not sure how much longer he can stay on the lead. The Ellis meet concludes on Labor Day, Sept. 7.
"I guess we fired a lot of good bullets off the bat that happened to get up to win," he said of his mid-sized stable. "Now we have to go through another rotation, and it's gonna get harder for them."
In looking through the second Ellis Park condition book, Bradley said he doesn't see his horses fitting as well as they did during the first portion of the meet.
As an example, he jokingly referred to the "Old Timers Classic," a $5,000 claiming race scheduled for Aug. 14 that is restricted to horses ages 8 and up.
"Got one for that," he quipped, referring to his 8-year-old Grade 1 stakes-winning gelding Brass Hat. "But I ain't gonna run him for a nickel."
Instead, Brass Hat - if he continues to do well in the coming weeks - is headed to Saratoga for the Aug. 14 Sword Dancer Invitational, a Grade 1, $500,000 turf race at 1 1/2 miles. He was scheduled to breeze Saturday at Churchill Downs, Bradley said.
Most recently, Brass Hat finished third, beaten 6 1/2 lengths by Presious Passion, in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park on July 4. Prior to that race, Brass Hat won the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs - his biggest win since taking the 2007 Massachusetts Handicap.
For a stable like Bradley's, stakes horses such as Brass Hat are the exception, not the rule. Most of his horses are suited to claiming, maiden, and low-end allowance races - just the kind of races that Ellis Park cards - and it is for that reason, and others, that Bradley has started a meet-high 16 horses, along with fellow trainers Dawn Martin and John Hancock.
"I usually run a lot at Ellis, always have," he said. "I'm probably one of the biggest supporters of Kentucky racing and running at all of the tracks when they're open, instead of shipping out of state."
But with cutbacks in purses and racing dates at Kentucky tracks, which are struggling vs. out-of-state tracks that have expanded gambling to supplement their purses, Bradley said "I might be forced to change, look at other options."
For now Bradley's horses are running at Ellis, and running well.