Fred Bradley’s Brass Hat, winner of the Donn Handicap (gr. I) in 2006, is a slight favorite over Stonecrest Farm’s Perfect Drift, winner of the 2003 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), on Sunday’s closing day of the 52-day spring meet.
Brass Hat is the 5-2 morning line favorite and Perfect Drift the 3-1 second choice in a field of eight in the $61,000 optional claiming allowance race at 1 1/16 miles. The race marks a comeback of sorts for both horses, among the most successful geldings now active in American racing.
The race will be the first since the 2006 Stephen Foster Handicap for Brass Hat, who finished fifth and was sidelined by a leg injury suffered in a workout after that race. Brass Hat was the runner-up in that year’s Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) before he was disqualified because of a medication mix-up. The 6-year-old Brass Hat has won six of 15 races and more than $1.2 million.
Perfect Drift makes his first appearance since he finished last in the Californian (gr. II) at Hollywood Park, one of the most disappointing efforts of the Murray Johnson trainee's career. The 8-year-old Perfect Drift has earned nearly $4.7 million while winning 11 of 45 starts
Brass Hat is conditioned by the owner-trainer’s son, William “Buff” Bradley.
Johnson entered the race in hopes of finding the confidence of Perfect Drift, who has not won since his victory in the $300,000 Washington Park Handicap (gr. II) at Arlington Park on July 20, 2005. That’s a string of 14 consecutive setbacks, but Johnson said Perfect Drift has responded well in his training since his disappointing journey to Southern California and he’s looking for a strong effort.
The optional claiming allowance race is clearly far from the “confidence builder” that Johnson had hoped for.
“It looks like a tough spot to do that, but he’s doing good,” said Johnson. “He’s at home and happy on the track and everything should go right. We gave him a little bit of easy time since California and he’s come back good. He seems to be as eager and keen as ever.”
Brass Hat has been working sharply toward his return to racing after a fractured sesamoid in the right fore sent him to the sidelines.
“It ought to be a good race,” said Buff Bradley. “I’m just excited to get to run him, basically. As I told my Dad, we’re just hoping for a good effort and let him come out of it healthy and ready to go for the next one.I think he’ll run big.”
While the homebred geldings are the marquee horses heading into Sunday’s race, they are far from the only accomplished horses in the field. Others include Student Council, third in the Alysheba (gr. III) at Churchill and winner of the Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Park; Spellbinder, winner of the 2006 Berkeley Handicap (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields; grade III winner M B Sea; and veteran stakes contender Real Dandy.