“Four of them? That’s pretty neat, I’ve got to tell my dad,” said trainer William “Buff” Bradley of the popular 8-year-old gelding who has yet to win in seven career turf tries.
The Louisville Handicap will mark the fourth race back for Brass Hat since he suffered a strained suspensory ligament in his left leg last summer.
“He has been playing when he comes off the track, which is great for an 8-year-old,” Buff Bradley said. “He is training like a 4- or 5-year-old. It is amazing how he keeps coming back. You don’t ever count him out.”
After breaking his maiden in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park in March 2004, Bradley put Brass Hat on the grass in the Forerunner at Keeneland.
“He is bred for the grass (by Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Prized) and he ran second to (eventual Jefferson Cup winner) Prince Arch,” Bradley said. “He was beaten only five lengths by Kitten’s Joy here in the American Turf, and Kitten’s Joy was a champion that year. He has been competitive against top horses on the grass.”
Brass Hat’s second of three Matt Winn Turf Course tries came two years later in his first start after suffering a condylar fracture in his right front ankle a year earlier in the Lone Star Derby. Brass Hat ran seventh that day, his worst turf showing ever.
“The rail was out that day and the first thing (jockey) Willie (Martinez) said was, ‘He’s good. Don’t worry about it.’ ” Bradley said.
Fourth in the Louisville Handicap last year behind Lattice, Brass Hat enters Saturday’s race off a third-place finish in the Grade II Elkhorn at Keeneland.
“I thought he ran huge at Keeneland,” Bradley said. “Maybe he flattened out a little bit at the end. (Jockey) Calvin (Borel) keeps saying I should run him on the dirt the way he is training.
“I am not completely off the dirt with him. I’d like to go back to the Mass Cap (a race Brass Hat won in 2007). But you get in a cycle and if I had gone in the New Orleans Handicap (instead of the Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial) which may have been better for him, I would have gone in the Alysheba (on May 1). I thought the surface (grass) would be kinder for him and the distance (a mile and a half) would make it so he would not have to run so hard the whole way.”
Brass Hat has a career record of 8-5-2 in 29 races with earnings of $1,825,814.
WOOLLEY’S WONDERFUL RIDE ENTERS SECOND MONTH – On April 21, Chip Woolley was a little known trainer from New Mexico who came to Churchill Downs with modest expectations for a Kentucky Derby hopeful named Mine That Bird.
One month, a Kentucky Derby (GI) victory and runner-up finish in the Preakness (GI) later, life has totally changed for Woolley.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Woolley said as he watched Mine That Bird gallop twice around the main track before the renovation break Thursday morning. “When we came here, we had planned on going on to the Belmont after the Derby.”
But what Woolley did not count on was an extended stay personally in Kentucky and tending to one horse instead of 25, which are being overseen by Woolley’s older brother Bill in New Mexico.
“Bill can gallop and do everything and if I stay here after the Belmont, I might let him come in for a while and I’ll fly home for a week,” Woolley said.
Despite all the notoriety from the Triple Crown run, Woolley yearns a bit for the regular routine of a full barn.
“With 25 head, there is something new every day,” Woolley said. “There are a lot of things going on. This (watching Mine That Bird gallop) is the highlight of my morning right now and with my leg, I can’t do a lot of stuff.”
In addition to Mine That Bird, all other Churchill Downs-based Preakness runners were on the track Thursday morning headlined by Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, who galloped under Dominic Terry.
Returning to the track for the first time since their Pimlico excursions were Flying Private (fourth) and Luv Gov (eighth) for D. Wayne Lukas, seventh-place finisher Terrain for Al Stall Jr. and ninth-place finisher General Quarters for Tom McCarthy.
PURE CLAN HAS FIRST TURF WORK OF 2009 – Three-time Churchill Downs stakes winner Pure Clan worked six furlongs around the “dogs” in 1:14.60 under exercise rider Steve Schmelzel on Thursday morning.
“It was a pretty good work around the dogs,” trainer Bob Holthus said as he prepares Pure Clan for her 2009 debut in the June 6 Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III). “This will probably be her only turf work.”
Winner of two races on the dirt in the fall of 2007 as a 2-year-old, Pure Clan moved to the grass last summer to win Churchill Downs’ Grade III Regret, then headed to California to win the American Oaks Invitational (Grade I) at Hollywood Park.
Nominations for the Early Times Mint Julep, worth $100,000-added for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going a mile and a sixteenth on the Matt Winn Turf Course, close on Saturday, May 23
FIELD OF SEVEN PROBABLE FOR MONDAY’S WINNING COLORS – The 2-3 finishers from the May 2 Humana Distaff (Grade I), Temple Street and Dubai Majesty, are among seven fillies and mares expected to pass the entry box Friday for Monday’s sixth running of the $100,000-added Winning Colors (Grade III) at six furlongs on the main track.
Among the other probables according to stakes coordinator Allison De Luca are Keep the Peace, Lady Chace, Nadeshiko, Tar Heel Mom and Tiz to Dream.
Two stakes scheduled for May 30, the Dogwood and the Aristides, drew 25 and 21 nominations, respectively.
Heading the probables on De Luca’s list for the Dogwood is Rainbow Miss Stakes winner Affirmed Truth, a stablemate of sixth-place Kentucky Derby finisher Summer Bird trained by Tim Ice. Other probables for the $100,000-added Dogwood for 3-year-old fillies going a mile on the main track are Hightap, Lady’s Laughter and Slides Choice.
Two-time Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (Grade III) winner Semaphore Man heads the list of probables for the $100,000-added Aristides for sprinters 3-years-old and up going six furlongs. Other probables include Bold Start, Cassoulet, Garfine, Grand Sensation, Knights Cross and Vicarian.
Entries for both stakes will be drawn Wednesday.
CLASSIC WINNER BOREL JOINS JILL BYRNE FOR SATURDAY’S “GET IN THE GAME” SEMINAR – Popular Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning jockey Calvin Borel will be racing analyst Jill Byrne’s special guest during Saturday’s free “Get in the Game” Handicapping Seminar at Churchill Downs.
The new weekly series takes place every Saturday in the paddock area at noon (EDT) and features informative and in-depth analysis of races and handicapping topics. Among Borel’s scheduled mounts on the day is a ride aboard veteran Brass Hat in the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap.
BARN TALK – Julien Leparoux, who entered Thursday’s card with a six-win lead (24-18) over Miguel Mena in the race for leading rider, will be out of town on Memorial Day to ride at Lone Star Park. Leparoux’s major mount that day will be trainer Marty Wolfson’s It’s a Bird in the $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (Grade III).
Robby Albarado entered Thursday’s card with 3,995 career victories. He has five mounts Thursday and five more on Friday as he bids to become the 56th North American rider to reach the 4,000-win plateau.
Also approaching milestones are trainers Ken McPeek and Bill Connelly. McPeek, with 999 career wins, has one horse entered Thursday (Sandstorm Cat in the eighth). Connelly, with 998 career wins, sends out two runners – Dancing Lydia in the fifth and Talkin Indian in the eighth.
Mambo in Seattle, runner-up in the 2008 Travers (Grade I) worked a half-mile Thursday in :48.40 before the renovation break, fourth-best of 31 at the distance. Also working a half-mile Thursday was Sam P., ninth-place finisher in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, who covered the distance in :51.
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND KICKS OFF WITH ‘FRIDAY HAPPY HOURS’ – This week’s “Dress to Impress” Friday Happy Hours at Churchill Downs will showcase live music by Radio Radio. The popular Spring Meet promotion, which takes place most Fridays from 4-7 p.m. in the paddock area, also features $2 Budweiser Select, $2 select specialty drinks and $2 hot dogs. Also, one female in the crowd will be chosen as “best dressed” and win a $250 gift certificate to a Louisville area boutique.
Churchill Downs has partnered with General Electric to giveaway GE stainless steel products in an on-track sweepstakes offer over the three-day Memorial Day weekend (Saturday, May 23 through Monday, May 25). Each day, there’ll be a daily prize drawing after the seventh race with one daily winner who’ll take home their choice of either a new refrigerator, range, dishwasher or microwave oven, courtesy of GE. Registration for the drawings will take place at a tent in the paddock area, where the first 5,000 entrants each day will receive a free koozie.
Sunday, May 24 is “GE Day at the Races” at Churchill Downs. Employees of General Electric who show their employee ID badge at Gate 10 will receive complimentary admission for themselves and their guests, as well as reserved seating in either Sections 115-116 or Millionaires’ Row 6.