Brass Hat was golden yesterday, setting a
Churchill Downs track record while beating Student Council by a head
in a $61,000 allowance race -- marking the second time the ultimate
comeback kid has returned from a year's layoff after fracturing his
Half of the state's capital city seemed to be
in the winner's circle with the 6-year-old millionaire, who is owned
and bred by former Kentucky state senator Fred Bradley of Frankfort,
Ky., and trained by his son, Buff.
Brass Hat battled slight
favorite Student Council through the stretch before finishing 1 1/16
miles in 1:41.27 under Willie Martinez. Churchill's closing-day
crowd of 9,335 engaged in a Brass Hat lovefest, especially as word
spread that a 37-year-old record had fallen.
"In church this morning, everybody was saying,
'How's the Hat going to do?' " Fred Bradley said. "I said, 'I hope
he wins.' That's all you can say. I didn't know how he would come
back. Now I've got to worry about where to run him next."
Wherever it is, it will be a more ambitious
spot, although the allowance race was graded-stakes caliber.
"I thought he was doing better than last year;
Willie thought he was doing better than last year," Buff Bradley
said. "But you don't know until you go out there and run. They
fought all the way to the wire. I wouldn't have cared if he was
three seconds off the track record.
"I wasn't really nervous until I thought of all
my friends and family that were going to be here today. I don't want
to let them down, either. But I knew Brass Hat would be back to his
old self after he got a race in him. I didn't expect this today, no.
If he stays healthy, look out."
Perfect Drift, the 8-year-old with $4.6 million
in earnings, finished fifth -- though only a neck out of third -- in
the field of six older horses.
Brass Hat clipped Yes Sir's 1970 track record
of 1:41 3/5 on a frozen track. Track superintendent Butch Lehr said
it had been one of two track records remaining since he took the top
post in 1981. The last is Secretariat's 1:59 2/5 for 1 ¼ miles in
the 1973 Kentucky Derby.
Yesterday the track was quickened by the
humidity. Two races later, Indian Chant set the track record for six
furlongs with 1:07.55 in an allowance race, nipping Kelly's
Landing's mark of 1:07.59. Despite the fast track, Indian Chant is a
fast horse in his own right, Lehr said. He earned a 110 Beyer speed
figure in his previous start.
"It will make a track different by about a full
second," Lehr said of the humidity. " … I think everything was
perfect today. I really don't like to see two track records in one
day. But if you look at the horses and their charts, you can see the
horses are capable."
Brass Hat, of humble breeding, went from losing
a cheap maiden-claiming race in 2004 to becoming the Bradleys' first
graded stakes-winner, then fractured his leg for the first time that
October. He returned in November 2005 and won Gulfstream's Grade I
Donn Handicap in 2006.
The gelding finished second in the $6 million
Dubai World Cup that year, then was disqualified from the $1.2
million runner-up purse for a controversial medication infraction.
Brass Hat finished fifth in Churchill's 2006 Stephen Foster and
fractured his leg again soon after.
Perhaps the only person who might have been
happier than the Bradleys at having Brass Hat back was Martinez, the
Kentucky mainstay who has struggled for mounts amid Churchill's
tough riding colony.
"As good of luck as we've had, we've had some
bad luck. So we didn't want to jinx ourselves," said Martinez, who
won his second race of the meet. "He's just an amazing horse.
Honestly, we didn't think we'd have him back (to the races). All the
credit goes to Brass Hat.
"He's done wonders for myself, for the
Bradleys. How many horses do you know who break down and come back
and perform at this level? I look for nothing but great things."