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Brass Hat to be honored during farewell ceremony at Churchill

Brass Hat has been retired after seven seasons of racing (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

Fred Bradley's homebred BRASS HAT (Prized) -- one of the greatest rags-to-riches stars in the history of Kentucky racing -- will get a fond farewell from fans and the people closest to him during a Saturday ceremony at Churchill Downs.

Churchill's farewell to Brass Hat is scheduled after Saturday's 5TH race, which has a post time of 2:55 p.m. (EDT). Brass Hat will make the trip to the Churchill Downs paddock with the horses that will run in the 5TH, and the veteran star will remain in the paddock while the race is run. The ceremony honoring Brass Hat and his connections will be conducted in the winner's circle following the race.

Trainer Buff Bradley, the owner/breeder's son, announced this week that the 10-year-old gelding would head into retirement. The younger Bradley described Brass Hat on Friday as a "blue collar horse" who had become a hero and favorite to many racing fans. Bradley said Brass Hat had been training well for a campaign at age 10, but he decided it was time to for the veteran to head back to the family's farm near Frankfort, Kentucky.

"He still really has the want-to," Bradley said. "If he was ready to run in the Louisville H. (G3) tomorrow, he'd be in the starting gate. But he's not ready and I thought it would just take too much time to get him ready to compete this year."

The Bradleys could never be accused of being overly ambitious with Brass Hat, who started his career as a three-year-old in a race for $15,000 claiming horses on January 29, 2004, at Turfway Park. He finished second that day at odds of 32-1, but two starts later scored his first career victory in a 38-1 upset in Turfway's Rushaway S. By the end of his first racing season Brass Hat had also collected victories in the Ohio Derby (G2) and Indiana Derby (G2).

He rebounded successfully from two major injuries during his career to compile a record of 10-8-5 in 40 races with earnings of $2,173,561. Other highlights included victories at five in the Donn H. (G1) at Gulfstream Park and New Orleans H. (G2) at Fair Grounds. The bay also won the $500,000 Massachusetts H. in 2007 and the 2005 Prairie Bayou S. at Turfway Park.

Brass Hat shifted almost exclusively to the grass late in his career and scored emotional victories for the Bradleys in Churchill Downs' Louisville H. (G3) in 2009 and a major win as a nine-year-old in last year's Sycamore S. (G3) at Keeneland. His numbers would be even more glittering had Brass Hat not been disqualified from a runner-up finish in the 2007 running of the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) at Nad Al Sheba.

Brass Hat compiled 10 stakes placings, including third-place finishes in the 2009 United Nations S. (G1) and Sword Dancer Invitational (G1), and set two new track records at Gulfstream and Churchill during his career.

"It will be an emotional day, but no more emotional than watching him any other day," Bradley said of his veteran star's Saturday farewell. "It has been so special to watch and be around this horse, especially in later years when he won the Louisville H. here and won the Sycamore at Keeneland last year at nine. All my barn crew is going to walk over to the paddock with him, so I'll get to share the moment with them."

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