Fred Bradley’s resilient 8-year-old gelding Brass Hat entered the $111,800 Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) without a victory since September 2007 and winless in seven career starts on the grass. But with red-hot jockey Calvin Borel on his back, the gelded son of Prized returned to the winner’s circle by roaring down the stretch and getting up in the final strides.
Trained by Bradley’s son, Buff, Brass Hat added another highlight to a remarkable career that has seen him overcome a pair of serious injuries which forced him to miss more than two years of combined racing action. The Kentucky homebred notched his fifth graded stakes victory and upped his earnings to $1,892,360.
Brass Hat, who is out of the Dixie Brass mare Brassy, entered the 1 1/2-mile Louisville winless since taking the Massachusetts Handicap back on Sept. 22, 2007, a span that lasted 10 starts. Despite the losing streak, Buff Bradley was confident entering the race, commenting earlier in the week that the horse was in his best shape in some time.
Sent off at 6-1, Brass Hat rated off the pace while Thabazimbi and Julien Leparoux took the field around in splits of :24.76, :48.95, 1:13.72 and 1:38.96 for a mile. Opening up a commanding lead in the early going, Thabazimbi saw his advantage slowly whittle away, as favored Spice Route steadily closed ground on the turn.
Spice Route split horses at the top of the lane under Shaun Bridgmohan and was finally able to run past the leader approaching the sixteenth-pole. But Brass Hat, who raced fifth through the backstretch, was swung five-wide for his stretch run and collared Spice Route just before the wire to win by a half-length.
The final time on the firm turf course was 2:28.44. Spice Route was 2 1/4 lengths better than third-place Thabazimbi.
"We foaled him eight years ago yesterday, so this was kind of neat," said Buff Bradley. The Bradley family farm is located near Frankfort, Ky. "We raised him and here he is still knocking on the door every time. My dad and I were pretty emotional after the race, so much so that we could barely speak. It really means a lot. He's very special to our family and our barn.
"I knew he was coming into the race well. You never know if they are going to win, but you can tell when they are going to run big. He had his game face on."
Borel, who won the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) aboard 50-1 Mine That Bird and two weeks later guided filly Rachel Alexandra to victory in the BlackBerry Preakness (gr. I), bagged his fifth victory on the Churchill card.
"He’s got so much class," said Borel, who won his third Louisville Handicap. "You know, he ran a good race last time at Keeneland (in the Elkhorn, gr. IIT). He only got beat 2 1/4 lengths and he got a little tired. He needed that race. The old man is now almost a hundred thousand from $2 million in career earnings. He’s all class.”
Brass Hat’s other graded stakes victories came in the Ohio Derby (gr. II) and Indiana Derby (gr. II) in 2004, and the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) and Donn Handicap (gr. I) in 2006. The fan favorite is now 9-5-2 from 30 lifetime starts.
The winner paid $14, $4.80 and $3. The exacta (7-8) returned $30 and the trifecta (7-8-9) was worth $82.60.