A year ago, Brass Hat, one of the most popular horses ever to race in Kentucky, and jockey Calvin Borel, perhaps the most popular jockey in the state, charged past their rivals down the stretch to win the Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland. Fans gave Brass Hat, Borel, breeder-owner Fred Bradley and Bradley’s son, Buff, who trained Brass Hat, a rousing reception after the Prized gelding’s first victory in six starts here.
On Thursday, the day of this year’s Sycamore, Keeneland fans will be able to pay tribute to the now-retired Brass Hat. Plans call for the 10-year-old gelding, who earned $2,173,561, to follow the horses that are racing in Keeneland’s seventh race to the saddling paddock and remain in one of the stalls while the racehorses move on. Following the trophy presentation for the race, Brass Hat will be paraded around the walking ring, where Fred Bradley will pose with him.
After his Sycamore win, Brass Hat was sixth in the Clark (G2) last November at Churchill, then was retired to the Bradleys’ Indian Ridge Farm in Frankfort, Kentucky. Buff’s assistant, Maria Kabel, who lives on the farm and first rode Brass Hat when he was a youngster, began riding the retiree in a Western saddle because Buff wanted to use him as a pleasure-riding mount.
Brass Hat currently is stabled with Bradley’s racehorses in Barn 2 in the stall next to the Bradleys’ Groupie Doll, who is expected to start in Saturday’s Lexus Raven Run (G2). The gelding has had numerous visitors who bring him apples and carrots or feed him the peppermints the Bradley crew has stocked for such occasions.
Kabel has been riding Brass Hat while she accompanies the first two sets of Bradley horses to the track to train in the mornings. However, the gelding is not expected to become a full-time pony.
“I was riding him all morning, but I had a couple of bad horses that he couldn’t do anything with,” Kabel said. “He was going to bite them. He was like, ‘No way, I’m not your pony.’ So I had to bring my pony back in.
“But he’s fun to go out there and ride. Everybody goes by and says, ‘Hey, Brass. Brass is here.”
The Sycamore marked one of Brass Hat’s nine stakes wins, which included the 2006 Donn (G1) at Gulfstream and victories at Churchill Downs, Hoosier Park, Louisiana Downs, Suffolk, Thistledown and Turfway. The gelding made six starts at Keeneland during his 40-race career, which was interrupted by several significant injuries. He was second in the Fifth Third Elkhorn (G2) in 2010 and third in the race in 2008 and 2009. In 2004, he was second in Keeneland’s Forerunner.
Kabel said Brass Hat has enjoyed being back at Keeneland, where Buff has ridden him.
“He likes the attention,” she said about the gelding. “He’s an attention hound, and he knows when everybody’s looking at him.”
**Brass Hat will go to the paddock at 3:50pm for about 30 minutes.