By MARTY McGEE
Brass Hat, winning the Prairie Bayou, will make his
third start off a layoff in the Jan. 7 New Orleans
Brass Hat, a convincing winner of the Prairie Bayou Stakes last
weekend at Turfway Park, will make his next start in the Grade 2, $400,000
New Orleans Handicap, said trainer Buff Bradley.
"He came out of the race in great shape," said Bradley, who trains
Brass Hat for his father, Fred. "After the race my father and I started to
figure out what to do next, and we said, 'Let's go for the big money.'
He's earned a shot to at least try."
Brass Hat, a 4-year-old homebred gelding by Prized, will be ridden
again by Willie Martinez in the New Orleans Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race
that will be run Jan. 7 at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs.
At this point, the prospective field for the race does not include many
big-name handicap horses, which is one reason the Bradleys are eager to
ship from their Turfway base in Florence, Ky. Nominations for the race
Brass Hat's start in the Prairie Bayou was his second since returning
from a layoff of more than a year. Brass Hat had fractured a front ankle
in the Lone Star Derby on Oct. 29, 2004. Buff Bradley said before the
Prairie Bayou that he strongly believed Brass Hat had returned "even
better" than before being injured.
Somewhat surprisingly, Brass Hat was just the fourth choice among nine
betting interests in the Prairie Bayou, even though he entered the race as
a three-time stakes winner. "I walked out of the paddock and saw he was
even-money and said, 'Well, they are going to bet him,' " said Bradley.
"Then he pays $11.40. It'd be hard for me to tell you why."
Bradley said he probably would send Brass Hat to Louisiana Downs four
or five days before the New Orleans Handicap. Although he has been based
in Kentucky for the last decade or so, Bradley is quite familiar with
Louisiana Downs, having worked as an assistant to the late Clarence Picou
in the early 1990's. In fact, Bradley was Picou's assistant when
Freespirit's Joy, a Louisiana-bred longshot, captured the Super Derby in
1991, when the race carried a $1 million purse.
Brass Hat earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure with his 2 1/2-length victory
in the Prairie Bayou. Last year, Brass Hat earned a 103 when he won the
Ohio Derby and a 106 when he won the Indiana