Ankle Fracture Knocks Brass Hat Out of Action

(from Churchill Downs notes)
Fred Bradley's Brass Hat, winner of this year's Donn Handicap (gr. I) and New Orleans Handicap (gr. II), suffered an ankle injury in a Thursday workout that will sideline the 5-year-old gelding for an extended period of time and could end his career.

Trainer William "Buff" Bradley, the owner's son, said Brass Hat suffered a non-displaced fracture in the sesamoid in his right front ankle following a workout on Thursday at Churchill Downs' Trackside Louisville training center.

He said several veterinarians had taken a look at X-rays of the fracture and quickly reached a consensus on how the injury should be treated.

"It was at the top of the sesamoid," said Bradley. "They all had the same feeling, and that was that you don't do any surgery on it. You let it heal on its own."

The injury is to the same ankle as a previous injury that kept Brass Hat out of competition for more than a year in the latter part of his 3-year-old season and most of his 4-year-old year, but the new fracture is not related to that injury. He had previously suffered a condylar fracture of his cannon bone, an injury that had required surgery.

Bradley said it was "far too early" to speculate on whether Brass Hat would be able to return to competition after the injury heals. Brass Hat will ship from Trackside Louisville to Fred Bradley's farm near Frankfort, Ky., on Saturday to recuperate.

Bradley said Brass Hat's veterinarians would look at another round of X-rays in a month and continue to monitor his progress. He said the early prognosis by the veterinarians who have inspected those X-rays has been favorable.

"They've seen them heal up, and they go on to race," Bradley said. "If he makes it back to the races, it'll be great. If not, that'll be great, too. I'm OK with it right now. Of course, it was very emotional yesterday. But we're very fortunate to have a horse like this."

Brass Hat had breezed five furlongs in 1:03 1/5 over a "fast" surface at Trackside Louisville training center, his second work since a fifth place finish behind Seek Gold in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs on June 17. Jockey Willie Martinez had slowed the son of Prized down to a near-jog on the six-furlong oval when the injury occurred.

"He worked with another horse, and they started out nice and easy and really picked it up good down the lane," said Bradley. "He drew away from the horse at the five-sixteenths (pole) and galloped out really strong. They had already come all the way back around when I saw him take a bad step. In his next step, he was considerably off."

Martinez immediately pulled Brass Hat up, and the jockey and Bradley walked the horse back to the barn, where X-rays were taken.

Just last week, Bradley and his father learned that racing officials in Dubai had upheld the disqualification of Brass Hat from his runner-up finish in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (gr. I). That decision saw their star demoted to 11th place in the world's richest race and resulted in the loss of their $1.2-million runner-up's share of the purse.

Brass Hat came back from his earlier injury and surgery at 3 to run off a string of three straight victories – including the New Orleans Handicap and the Donn – that preceded his big effort in Dubai. While his fifth-place finish in the Stephen Foster Handicap was a disappointment, Bradley said he didn't have his star "tight enough" for the race and was looking toward a possible bid for the prestigious Whitney (gr. I) at Saratoga.

"We all are very thankful that we've had this horse," said Bradley. "We all know what he's done for us, and we're very happy with what we've accomplished with him. Maybe there will be another chapter with him, but we're not going to worry about that. He took a bad step, that's all there was to it."

Brass Hat owns a record of 6-4-0 in 15 races with career earnings of $1,233,473.