Brilliant to End Campaign in Commonwealth

(from Churchill Downs notes)
Mill House's Brilliant, whose season includes victories in Churchill Downs' Jefferson Cup (gr. IIT) and the Kent Breeders' Cup (gr. IIIT) at Delaware Park, will finish his year Saturday as the likely favorite in the second running of the $150,000-added Commonwealth Turf for 3-year-olds.

Trainer Neil Howard said the 1 1/16-mile race over the Matt Winn Turf course will be the final of the season for the son of 2000 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner War Chant. Brilliant will be looking to make amends for a disappointing finish in the Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT) on Oct. 14, where he finished sixth as the odds-on favorite to the Michelle Boyce-trained Best of Buddies.

That setback came after an outstanding effort in a 6 ½-length victory over "soft" turf in the Kent.

"He came out of that race with a fairly significant lung infection, but that colt of Michelle Boyce's won it and ran a real good race," Howard said. "He cleared up and has trained real well and we're looking forward to this race."

Brilliant started his career on dirt as his connections gave him a chance to put himself on the Kentucky Derby trail. Although he ran well on the main track, Howard had always believed that Brilliant would be a better turf horse. He has validated that outlook with a glossy record of 4-0-0 in six grass starts, with the only off-the-board finishes coming in the Hawthorne Derby and a close fifth-place finish to the then-unbeaten After Market in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga.

"It's always a wait and see thing, but once he got on the turf he went right on through," Howard said. "I thought the Jefferson Cup was a great race, and he didn't run that bad at Saratoga. I think he was a work or two short, because we gave him a break after the Jefferson Cup, and only got beat a couple of lengths by After Market. Obviously the race in Delaware was a real turning point for him - I thought it was a fabulous race."

Brilliant is unbeaten in three starts over the Matt Winn Turf Course, and Howard hopes the race will provide his rising star with a good send-off toward an even better season as a 4-year-old in 2007.

"I kind of always had this race in the back of our mind to end the season on and give him a little break," said Howard. "It's right here at Churchill and he's run well on the Churchill turf course, so I'm glad we're running in this race."

Howard's stable will spend the winter at the Fair Grounds as the New Orleans track reopens on Thanksgiving Day after being shuttered for a year because of damage from Hurricane Katrina. Brilliant's first major goal of his 4-year-old season is expected to be the $400,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs.

"We'll give him a little bit of a busman's holiday after this race," said Howard. "Then we're going to sit down and work out a schedule, working back from the race on Derby Day."

Brilliant will carry an overall record of 5-3-1 in 11 races with earnings of $557,528 into Saturday's season finale in the Commonwealth Turf.