One of these days 9-year-old Brass Hat will show signs of slowing down. It might be later this year, it could be in 2011, or maybe, it won't be until he is in his teens.
When that time comes, Buff Bradley, who trains the remarkable homebred gelding for his father, Fred Bradley, will be the first to know.
“We’re not going to run him if he slows down and can’t compete at a high level,” said Buff Bradley. “We’ve had him his whole life, so we will know when that times comes. But right now, he’s still doing very well. You would never think he was a 9-year-old. He loves his job. His attitude is still the same. And his legs seem great. He just keeps on truckin’.”
On May 22, Brass Hat will defend his title in the $100,000 Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT). The 1 1/2-mile turf race, the feature on Churchill Downs’ 10-race program, drew a field of 11 and the headliners are both veteran fan favorites. Brass Hat won the race a year ago to record his first stakes victory on turf, and Silverfoot, who is now 10, won the event three consecutive years from 2004-06.
Though Brass Hat has not won since last year’s Louisville Handicap, the son of Prized has hit the board in four of his five starts, including a runner-up last out in the Fifth Third Elkhorn Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland when he closed very well in the late stages under Calvin Borel.
This will be Brass Hat’s third start of the season and judging by what Bradley has seen in the mornings, he is expecting a big performance.
“Since we brought him back to Churchill it seems like he’s got an extra bounce in his step,” Bradley said. “He’s usually pretty calm, but he looks a little more lively.”
The bay horse, who last month was honored during “Brass Hat Day” in Frankfort, Ky., the city he was born and raised in, has produced a 9-7-4 record from 35 starts with earnings of over $2 million. He is a five-time graded stakes winner, his biggest score coming in the 2006 Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park. For the last two years, Bradley has raced him mostly on turf.
“We thought with the pace being slower (in turf races), it would help him finish stronger,” Bradley said. “And when they write those races, they are usually at longer distances. The one thing about this horse is that he can run all day.”
Bradley said Borel has been named to ride, but he has Tony Farina waiting in the wings in case he can’t go. Borel has been hampered by an eye injury that he suffered last Sunday and has been taken off mounts May 20.
Chrysalis Stables’ Silverfoot is winless in both starts this year, finishing off the board in the Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT) in February and an allowance race at Keeneland April 9. The gelded son of With Approval last hit the winner's circle at Arlington Park in July, 2009 when taking the Tin Man Stakes by a neck.
All three of Silverfoot’s Louisville Handicap wins came by narrow margins. He was fifth in the event in 2008. A winner of 11 of 39 starts for earnings of $948,365, Silverfoot has scored five times in graded stakes company. Corey Lanerie will ride for trainer Dallas Stewart.
Other notable starters are Telling, winner of the grade I Sword Dancer Invitational last year, and Bearpath, who won the Pan American (gr. III) at Gulfstream in March.
$100,000 Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 10, 5:29 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Bearpath (KY), F Lenclud, 117, I R Wilkes
2. Blushing Bear (KY), B J Hernandez Jr., 117, J A Dodgen
3. Telling (KY), S Bridgmohan, 117, S Hobby
4. Free Fighter (IL), F C Torres, 115, C M Block
5. Brass Hat (KY), C H Borel, 119, W Bradley
6. Eagle Poise (KY), J Theriot, 115, W I Mott
7. March to Victory (ON), J R Leparoux, 114, C Clement
8. Spy in the Sky (KY), J Lopez, 114, J M Day
9. Silverfoot (KY), C J Lanerie, 115, D Stewart
10. Silver Mountain (KY), M Mena, 113, W G Gowan
11. Hidden Glance (KY), A O Solis, 113, N J Howard