10/26/2004 11:00PM

Brass Hat goes for third derby, this time as the likely favorite

Jim Linscott
Brass Hat wins the Indiana Derby at10-1, earning a Beyer Figure of 104.

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Brass Hat won the Rushaway at 38-1 in March, the Grade 2 Ohio Derby at 21-1 in June, and the Grade 2 Indiana Derby at 10-1 in his last start Oct. 2. But don't expect as generous a price on the gelding on Friday, when he starts in the Grade 3, $250,000 Lone Star Derby.

For the first time in his career, Brass Hat should go favored in a race. He is one of 13 in the 1 1/16-mile Lone Star Derby, and among his rivals are graded stakes winners Pollard's Vision, Pies Prospect, Skipaslew, and Flamethrowintexan.

Adding depth to the field are Cryptograph, the Round Table winner, who will add blinkers; Britt's Jules, who was third last out in the Grade 2 Super Derby; and My Creed, winner of the $100,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Derby.

Despite the formidable competition, Brass Hat appears to be the one to beat because of his back-to-back victories in the Ohio and Indiana derbies. At Hoosier Park last out he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 104, which is the top last-race number in the Lone Star Derby.

"He's getting some respect now," said William "Buff" Bradley, who trains Brass Hat for his father, Fred Bradley. "He's been running big."

Brass Hat won the Rushaway from a stalking position, but in his last two starts has closed from last, and the races have been the best of his career.

"He's got such a long stride, we thought if we let him settle and make his run he would do better," said Bradley.

In the early going, said Bradley, "he doesn't have to be dead last. We just want him to relax, then finish."

Brass Hat arrived at Lone Star on Tuesday following a nearly 14-hour van ride from his Trackside training center base in Louisville, Ky.

"He's such a good shipper we decided to van," said Bradley. "He shipped in well."

Willie Martinez has the mount on Brass Hat. His chief rival could be Pollard's Vision, who was second in the Ohio Derby and a troubled sixth as the favorite his last time out in the Indiana Derby.

"Last race he didn't get a great trip," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Pollard's Vision. "It was no one's fault. Everybody swept up outside of him, and he never had any real clean run. It was one of those races. He didn't run bad - he never got an opportunity to show his best."

John Velazquez will ride Pollard's Vision.

Flamethrowintexan flew into Lone Star about two weeks ago following his 8 1/2-length victory in the British Columbia Derby at Hastings Park on Sept. 25. Trained by Jim Penney, Flamethrowintexan has excellent speed but showed a new dimension at Hastings when he sat behind the pace in the early stages.

"Last time they sent a horse to the outside of us and we eased back and it worked good," said Bryson Cooper, Penney's son-in-law, who has been working the colt at Lone Star. "We're pretty optimistic with the way he's been training, because he's learning to relax. Now he's a horse that doesn't have to be on the lead."

Penney's daughter Kay Cooper is the trainer's assistant, and she has been at Lone Star with Flamethrowintexan. Ricky Frazier has the mount on the gelding, who is named for former Texas Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan.

* The Lone Star Derby is one of three stakes on the card at Lone Star, and it will be telecast live on ESPN2.

- additional reporting by David Grening