Fred Bradley’s veteran Brass Hat collared favored Spice Route (GB) in deep stretch and edged clear to win Saturday’s 72nd running of the $111,800 Louisville Handicap (Grade III) by a half-length at Churchill Downs.
In giving jockey two-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel his fifth victory of the afternoon and third in the Louisville Handicap, the 8-year-old Brass Hat snapped a 10-race losing streak and covered the 1 ½ miles on a firm Matt Winn Turf Course in 2:28.44. William “Buff” Bradley, the owner’s son, trains Brass Hat, who posted his first victory in eight starts on grass and notched his first win since taking the Massachusetts Handicap on Sept. 22, 2007, at Suffolk Downs.
Thabazimbi, ridden by Julien Leparoux, bounded to an uncontested lead and took the field through early fractions of :24.76, :48.95, 1:13.72 and 1:38.96. Brass Hat was content to race back in fifth place and did not begin to pick up the pace until he approached the far turn.
Thabazimbi disposed of a challenge from Transduction Gold at the head of the stretch, but was soon tackled by Spice Route and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. Borel and Brass Hat followed Spice Route and joined the leaders with an eighth of a mile to run. Thabazimbi was the first to fold at the sixteenth pole leaving the battle between Brass Hat and Spice Route, with the former prevailing in the final yards.
Sent off as the third choice in the field of nine, Brass Hat returned mutuels of $14, $4.80 and $3. Spice Route returned $2.60 and $2.10. Thabazimbi finished another 2 ¼ lengths back in third and paid $2.40 to show. Completing the field in order were My Happiness (ARG), Silver Mountain, Gangbuster, Always First (GB), Transduction Gold and Why Tonto.
The victory, the ninth in 30 career starts for the homebred son of Prized out of the Dixie Brass mare Brassy, was worth $66,546 and raised Brass Hat’s career earnings to $1,892,360.
Borel equaled his second-best day in victories at Churchill Downs with his five wins. He won six races on July 5, 2007 and had a five-win day on Oct. 30, 1997. Borel’s other winners Saturday were Keepinonestepahead ($9.40) in the first, Dobra ($6.20) in the second, Lord and T. ($4.40) in the seventh and War Eagle Lady ($3.20) in the ninth. For the day from 10 mounts, Borel added two seconds and a third-place finish to his five victories.
Racing resumes Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:45 p.m. EDT.
LOUISVILLE HANDICAP POST-RACE QUOTES
CALVIN BOREL, jockey of BRASS HAT (winner)
“When [Always First] ran up to us on the final turn, I thought that we better go get ‘em. And he just ran them down. Class. He’s got so much class. You know, he ran a good race last time at Keeneland. He only got beat 2 ¼ lengths and he got a little tired. He needed that race. The ‘Old Man’ is now almost a hundred thousand from $2 million in career earnings! He’s all class.”
Q: How about the five-win day?
“It’s all in the hands.”
‘BUFF’ BRADLEY, trainer of BRASS HAT (winner)
“Walking through the grandstand, a lot of fans were excited to see the old horse back and doing well.”
Q: You had to be pleased with the pace scenario. . .
“All the way around. Fred and I were talking and we really though Calvin had him placed well. The only concern we had was when it was time to start going and he wasn’t really picking them up as fast as we thought he would. But he kept grinding it out and really showed his class and his heart to win. He’s just got so much desire to keep doing it right now; he’s just really into it.”
Q: What’s next?
“Right now, we’ve got to drink some Coronas and think about it. [The Grade I, $750,000 United Nations at 1 3/8 miles on turf at Monmouth Park on July 4] is a thought . . . The timing would be pretty good on that one. Of course, we’d love to stay at Churchill, our home track, but the [Grade I, $600,000 Stephen] Foster [on June 13] is in three weeks and it’d be awfully tough; we’d have to run against Einstein.”
Q: On owner Fred Bradley, Buff’s father:
“He’s given me all the time with him and that’s the reason he’s 8 years old and still running.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, rider of SPICE ROUTE (runner-up)
“I had a great trip. I got to the inside and tried to save as much ground as I could from the position that I had. I thought he tried hard. He gave me what he had.”
Q: Did you feel the old boy Brass Hat coming at you on the outside?
“I could hear him breathing down my neck from a ways away. I was just hoping that I could spurt away from him. My horse tried hard and hung in there.”
JULIEN LEPAROUX, jockey on THABAZIMBI (third)
“He’s got a big stride. I didn’t really want to take a big hold on him. Again, he has a big stride and he was comfortable, but he just wanted to do a little bit too much in the first part, and he got a little tired. A mile and a half might to a little too far, but I think they want to try him again. He ran big. It was his first time against stakes horses, so it was good.”