09/22/2007 12:00AM

Brass Hat beats Fairbanks in revival of Mass Cap

EmailEAST BOSTON, Mass. – Brass Hat proved he likes Boston a whole lot more than Saratoga with a three-quarter-length victory over Fairbanks in the return of the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap before 19,191 Saturday at Suffolk Downs.

After two dismal efforts behind Lawyer Ron in the Whitney Handicap and Woodward at the Spa in his previous two starts, Brass Hat needed to prove he was still capable of performing in major stakes. He ground his way past Fairbanks, the 3-5 favorite, under a confident Willie Martinez.

"There was absolutely a big difference with him today," Martinez said. "Take nothing away from Lawyer Ron, but this is a wonderful horse, and I was confident by the time we got to the first turn."

Brass Hat settled off the pace set by longshot Fire Striker and a stalking Fairbanks, who bobbled out of the starting gate and didn't take his customary spot on the lead. After a slow early pace, Fairbanks and jockey Richard Migliore tried to slip away, but Brass Hat pounced on him at the quarter pole.

"I rode the race like I was in front the whole time, but Brass Hat just never went away," said Migliore.

Dr. Pleasure raced just behind the slow pace but couldn't sprint with the top two turning for home. Evening Attire, 9, making his third Mass Cap appearance, finished fourth.

Brass Hat ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.72 and paid $10.20 as the third choice.

"He really redeemed himself today," said trainer Buff Bradley, who saddled Brass Hat for his father, Fred. "This is pretty emotional. We wanted to get him his confidence back and you could tell right away how much more comfortable he was."

The Mass Cap returned from a three-year absence as a Breeders' Cup Classic prep race, but the race lost its grade and Brass Hat will probably have to wait another year before trying the Breeders' Cup.

"We probably don't have enough points to go in there," said Bradley. "But we'd love to come back and try next year though."

Migliore did win a major stakes on the card, aboard Afrashad in the $100,000 James B. Moseley Sprint Handicap, beating the Godolphin Racing entrymate Council Member as the coupled 1-5 favorite.

It was Afrashaad's return to the dirt after stopping to fifth in the Troy Stakes on turf at Saratoga and his second stakes victory. He won the Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct last November.

Council Member stumbled out of the gate but rallied past Roman Candles to get second. The entry paid $2.40. Afrashad ran the six furlongs in 1:09.05.

o On the Vineyard was a 3 1/4-length winner of the $45,000 Collegian Stakes, giving Martinez a second stakes win on the card. Reprized Strike pulled a huge upset in the $45,000 Waquoit Stakes, paying $112.60.