Brass Hat gets brass ring in Sycamore

Yetta Feltner photos

Here's the race replay, courtesy Keeneland.

Now that Brass Hat has joined the handful of horses to win graded stakes races at age 9, could he become the first ever to win at 10?


Brass Hat will make that call, but trainer Buff Bradley said that as long as the gelding stays healthy and happy, he sees no reason not to run him next year.


"Now if he comes back and doesn't run well, or has a leg problem, then he's retired," said Bradley, who trains Brass Hat for his dad, former state senator Fred Bradley, who raised the gelding on the family farm in Frankfort, Ky. "That's very simple. My father and I have understood that since he was a 3-year-old."


He added about a horse who twice came back from year-long layoffs because of leg fractures, "We know the last five years have been gravy."


Brass Hat reached rarified company (which doesn't include steeplechase horses winning graded stakes at 9) with an explosive late run for a length victory over Southern Anthem, a 4-year-old whippersnapper, in Keeneland's Grade III Sycamore Thursday.


"We would never look at a record or anything like that," Buff Bradley said. "We would never push him to have him do anything. (But) I see no reason for him not to run as a 10 year old. We have not really discussed too much further what's going to happen now. We'll sit down and talk about it and try to lay out a plan for him for the next year at some point.

"He's done everything we've asked. I've seen on blogs where he should be retired. They can't be horse people or horse-racing fans. He is running at a very high level, and he runs (hard) just about every darn time. He puts forth a very good effort. Sometimes in these longer races, things have to set up for you right.


"He is my family, this horse. He's a special horse. I think it's very important for me to let the fans see him. I've answered every email, every text I've gotten. It's important I get to share this horse with everybody."


It was Brass Hat's first victory since taking Churchill's Louisville Handicap during the 2009 spring meet, though he had three seconds and three thirds, all in stakes, during that eight race span. The Sycamore also resulted in the third-best BRIS speed figure (107) of his career, topped only by the 113 he got in taking the 2006 Donn Handicap and a 108 when third in Keeneland's Elkhorn. (For those who follow the Beyer speed figures, his 96 was not among his fastest.)


"I tease people when they ask, 'How old is he?" Buff said. "I say, Well, he's only 9. It's not like a big deal." When you watch him train or anywhere, you don't think he's a 9-year-old horse."


Brass Hat at ages 3 and 6 suffered leg fractures that kept him out of the races for a year. He also was the subject of the world's costliest disqualification - $1.2 million - after finishing second in the 2006 Dubai World Cup but being stripped of purse money after testing positive for a trace level of a common therapeutic medication.


All of Brass Hat's victories are emotional for his camp, but this one especially so. It was the first Keeneland stakes victory for not only the horse, but the Bradleys.


Because there were friends and fans who couldn't get in the stakes winner's circle presentation on the Keeneland grass course, Buff had them wait in the regular winner's circle in front of the grandstand. After the official proceedings were over, Brass Hat was led in there for another photo shoot. Because the horse had already been unsaddled, jockey Calvin Borel hopped aboard Brass Hat bareback.


"I had a lot of friends and family, just a lot of fans who have followed him a long way," Buff said. "I felt like it was only right to let them get their picture taken, too, and to be with the horse in the winner's circle. It was nice, and the (track) photographer is happy with us" - because of additional picture sales.


The double take was no problem because Brass Hat showed little sign of exertion after the race.


"Calvin said he wouldn't even take a deep breath," Buff said. "He said, 'He was wanting to run, and I couldn't get him out (of traffic) for a long time.' He said he really didn't run that far."


Said Borel: "He's so classy. He was the best horse in the race, and he worked so good prior to the race. I rode him with a lot of confidence."


Brass Hat now is getting his normal post-race break at owner-breeder Fred Bradley's farm in Frankfort, where the gelding pals around with the miniature horse Magic.


"He's already bucking and romping in the pasture," he said. "He doesn't act like a horse who just ran a mile and a half yesterday. He's truly amazing. We know how special he is and that you can't expect this always. With everything we've been through with him, it's hard not to get emotional. My dad was very emotional in the winner's circle, started crying and couldn't even talk after the race, it meant so much to him."


About the photos: There were two "winner's circle" presentations, the traditional one for stakes held on the turf course (Fred Bradley is at the far left by Calvin Borel), and an impromptu one in Keeneland's regular race grandstand winner's circle, where Calvin was aboard bareback because Brass Hat had been unsaddled.

Brass Hat now joins John Henry, John's Call, The Tin Man, Cloudy's Knight (who was retired two days before the Sycamore at age 10) and it seems like there might be another horse as the only winners of graded stakes on the flat at age 9. And yes, as a comment poster below noted in kindly reminding me about The Tin Man before this was updated, pointed out, The Tin Man won a Grade I at 9 - as did John Henry and John's Call. But it's huge for any horse at 9 to win a graded stakes, or any kind of stakes. I'm glad the Bradleys plan to keep him in training as long as he seems to want to be a race horse and is sound.

- by Jennie Rees from The Louisville Courier-Journal, October 23, 2010