Brass Hat a Rarity in Racing
Photo: Brandon Branson/ Chip Bott Photo
Brass Hat
In a day and age when retiring graded stakes winners as 3-and 4-year-olds is the now the norm, the Thoroughbred racing industry is in desperate need of older superstars. Gutsy horses that fans can get attached to and follow for the better part of a decade. Horses that will give their all every time out in spite of adversity.

Horses like Brass Hat.

Owned and bred by Fred Bradley, Brass Hat will turn seven at the beginning of the year, and despite a pair of devastating injuries that have interrupted his multiple stakes winning career, there seems to be no slowing the son of Prized. In fact, trainer William “Buff” Bradley – the son of Fred – says that the resilient gelding is as good as he’s ever been.

“He’s doing great,” Buff Bradley said. “We’re turning him out daily and started jogging him on the Equi-Gym. He’ll go to Turfway on Tuesday (to begin training) and our plan is to go back to the Donn (Handicap) in February.

“He’s showing no signs of slowing down. I think he’s very easy on himself and a big part of his recoveries have been my father being so patient with him. He’s overcome a lot of obstacles. We know how fortunate we are to have a horse like him. There are a lot of people who go their whole careers without a horse half as good as Brass Hat.”

Brass Hat, out of the Dixie Brass mare Brassy, has won eight of 21 career starts, earning $1,688,819. He is a seven-time stakes winner, including triumphs in the Ohio Derby (gr. II) and Indiana Derby (gr. II) as a 3-year-old, and the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) and Donn Handicap (gr. I) as a 5-year-old.

That 5-year-old season may have been Brass Hat’s most remarkable year. It came after the first of his two severe right front leg injuries, which he sustained in the 2004 Lone Star Derby (gr. III). The condylar fracture forced Brass Hat to have a pair of screws inserted in his leg and miss more than a year of action.

After an allowance start in November of 2005, Brass Hat reeled off three consecutive stakes wins, including the Donn, when he set the Gulfstream Park 1 1/8-mile course record for his lone grade I score.

Almost 1 1/2 years after that, Brass Hat suffered a sesamoid injury that forced him to the sideline for 13 more months.

“That second injury was a tough one to heal from,” said Bradley, 44, who is part of a family-owned operation at their 300-acre Indian Ridge Farm in Frankfort, Ky. “We didn’t know if he’d come back from that one. We were just hoping we were going to be able to keep him as a pet of the farm.

“But we gave him enough time and he came back 100% again.”

 In his first race back, the bay gelding broke the 36-year-old 1 1/16-mile track record in an allowance race at Churchill Downs in 1:41.27.

The most significant win for Brass Hat in 2007 was the Sept. 22 Massachusetts Handicap, in which he defeated Fairbanks by three-quarters of a length at Suffolk Downs. The trip to Boston was when Bradley began to realize how much of an effect Brass Hat had on racing fans.

“We were so well received by the fans at Suffolk, it was great,” Bradley said. “Even before he won the race, people were cheering for him and (9-year-old) Evening Attire. I knew why. They appreciated those horses staying around. People want to see horses race.”

Like many racing fans, Bradley is a bit troubled by the way the Thoroughbred racing industry has shifted towards breeding.

“It’s disturbing,” Bradley continued. “It’s very sad to see horses not return after they win a couple of graded stakes. It has become a game motivated by breeding.

“I know when I was first getting into racing, I rooted for horses that stayed around; horses like John Henry. They were the kind of horses that got me into the sport.

“Brass Hat will run as long as he is healthy and able to compete at a high level. We won’t run him into the ground or for a claiming price. But as long as he’s happy, we’ll run him. I think people appreciate that.”

 

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