After a disappointing 2008 campaign in which he went winless in five starts, trainer Buff Bradley thought the end may had finally come for 7-year-old Brass Hat, a fan favorite who had claimed seven stakes victories in his sensational career.
But after time off at their Frankfort, Ky. farm and a pair of impressive works, it looks like Brass Hat will be back for more. The gelded son of Prized, who turned 8 earlier this week, is back in training and being pointed for a yet-to-be-determined race sometime in February or March.
“He’s never been better,” said Bradley, who conditions the homebred for his father, Fred Bradley. “At age 8, there are very few that you can say that about, but he’s kind of like John Henry in that respect. He hasn’t slowed down at all. In fact, he looks as good as he did three years ago.”
Brass Hat began his 2008 campaign at Gulfstream Park by finishing fourth in the Feb. 2 Donn Handicap (gr. I). After another fourth-place effort in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) at Fair Grounds, he took third in the Elkhorn (gr. II) April 25 at Keeneland.
Off-the-board finishes in the Louisville Handicap (gr. III) and Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs ended Brass Hat’s 2008 season. On July 25, five weeks after the Stephen Foster, Bradley sent the bay out for a work and noticed a minor problem.
“He had a slight inflammation in his suspensory,” Bradley said. “We were probably a little ambitious last year, even though he had some excuses in a couple of those races. After that last work we turned him out and gave for him about three months to recover.
“We started jogging him on our Equi-Gym in November for about 30 days and noticed he was doing better. So we sent him to the track in December. He’s had two terrific works. Bill Troilo worked him both times and said he went very nicely. He galloped out after the last work (Dec. 27 at Turfway Park, four furlongs in :48.80) and did it so easily. We were all surprised.”
That Brass Hat is even still racing at this point in his career is a small miracle. Winner of the Ohio Derby (gr. II) and Indiana Derby (gr. II) as a 3-year-old, he has recovered from two severe right front leg injuries, the first of which he sustained in the 2004 Lone Star Derby (gr. III). A condylar fracture forced Brass Hat to have a pair of screws inserted in his leg and miss more than a year of action.
After recovering well enough to reel off three consecutive wins in late 2005 and early 2006, including the New Orleans Handicap and Donn Handicap, Brass Hat nearly had his career ended a second time in the summer of 2006 when he suffered a sesamoid injury that forced him to the sideline for 13 more months. Remarkably, the bay gelding came back from that injury to win the Massachusetts Handicap in 2007. He has not returned to the winner’s circle since then.
Despite a seven-race losing streak, Bradley thinks Brass Hat may have a couple more victories in him.
“We’re not going to run him in a claiming race or anything like that,” said Bradley. “We’ll look for a minor stakes, maybe at Oaklawn or Fair Grounds, and see how he does. We’ll take it one race at a time; we always have.
“There has never been any pressure to get him on the track and the credit goes to my dad for that. We’ve always listened to what the horse told us and never made him do anything he didn’t want to do.
Bradley said Brass Hat, who has set track records at Gulfstream and Churchill in his career, will have weekly works until they find the right spot for him. Preferably, they would like to run him at 1 1/8 miles or more.
“It’s so neat to have a horse like this,” Bradley said. “He makes going to the track fun every morning. He loves standing on the track and just watching all the other horses go by. He’s all class. We’re not going to run him into the ground. We’ve always done right by him.”
Brass Hat is out of the Dixie Brass mare Brassy. He is 8-5-1 from 26 career starts with earnings of $1,790,314.