Fred F. Bradley's often overlooked homebred Brass Hat absolutely dominated the field in Saturday's $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) at sloppy Gulfstream Park for his third straight stakes victory since mid-December.
Trained by Bradley's son William "Buff" Bradley, the 5-year-old gelding Brass Hat, an 8-1 outsider, started rolling from the back of the pack on the far turn and inhaled the field on the far outside. He finished with authority while drawing away from a pair of Nick Zito trainees, Pies Prospect and Andromeda's Hero, in a time of 1:47 3/5 for the 1 1/8-mile test. Brass Hat, who won by 4 3/4 lengths in the end, went over the $1 million mark in career earnings.
"The rain did not concern me at all," the trainer said. "This horse will run over anything. He could run up I-95 or go run in the snow. I was glad to see the strong pace, and when he got to third, I felt pretty confident. I told my dad, 'We got it now.' I can't describe this. It's a dream ... just a dream for my Dad, for me, and for everyone whose been involved with this horse."
A victory in the Donn started Saint Liam on his Horse of the Year campaign last year.
Bradley's son of Prized
was coming off a 2 1/2-length win in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) at Louisiana Downs Jan. 7 but had not started on an off-track in his 12 previous races. He was off for more than a year while recovering from an injury before he returned in November, finishing seventh in a grass race at Churchill Downs. Brass hat won the Prairie Bayou at Turfway Park by 2 1/2 lengths in his next start.
Brass Hat won for the sixth time, and he has now banked $1,217,090. He won derbies in Ohio and Indiana (both gr. II) in 2004.
"My wife took care of him on our little farm," Bradley said of Brass Hat's absence. "She took care of him during his recuperation period. He'll go back to the farm, stay there five days, and back to Turfway. Then we'll see what's next. We don't really know what we'll do. He's nominated to the Dubai World Cup, or maybe go to a race at Oaklawn."
On Thin Ice and Suave fought for the lead through sizzling early fractions of :23 and :45 4/5 and both were backing out of contention by the time they reached the far turn. Magna Graduate took over after six furlongs in 1:09 2/5 and, with Pies Prospect challenging as they came off the turn, the two battled down the stretch. But Brass Hat blew past his rivals and was continuing to stretch his advantage approaching the wire.
"We really didn't want to do anything to change our horse's (off-the-pace) style," Martinez said. "We had a lot of respect for those other horses, but I don't think they had a lot of respect for us. I told Buff last year that this horse would be even better this year, and I think he is. We appreciate this horse and the style he has."
The second longest price on the board, Brass Hat paid $18.60, $8.40, and $6.20, combining with the entry ($5.40, $5.60) for a $98 exacta. Runner-up Pies Prospect was ridden by Jeremy Rose while Andromeda's Hero was piloted to a late-running third-place effort by Rafael Bejarano.
Magna Graduate finished fourth, followed by West Virginia, Suave, Seek Gold, Super Frolic, and On Thin Ice.