02/02/2006 1:00AM

Brass Hat looks to have settled in nicely

Doctor Decherd (right), here winning the Aventura, is set to go in Saturday's Holy Bull.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - One horse flying under the radar just a bit entering the Donn is Brass Hat, a three time Grade 2 winner who comes here off a 2 1/2-length victory in the New Orleans Handicap. A homebred son of Prized, Brass Hat is trained by Buff Bradley for his father, Fred Bradley.

Brass Hat arrived on the grounds last week from Kentucky to little fanfare and had a chance to get in a work over the track before the Donn, going five furlongs in 1:01 on Jan. 28.

"He's acclimated pretty well and is doing good," Buff Bradley said Wednesday. "I think he fits right there with the likely favorites in the field, Magna Graduate and Suave."

Brass Hat beat Suave by nearly two lengths winning the Indiana Derby during the fall of their 3-year-old campaigns in 2004. But Brass Hat suffered a condylar fracture of his right front ankle after finishing far back four weeks later in the Lone Star Derby and was off for 13 months. He finally returned in late November, and after finishing seventh against allowance company at Churchill Downs he rebounded with a pair of impressive wins, including a 1 1/2-length victory at Louisiana Downs in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap.

"My wife, Kim, took care of him while he recuperated on our farm in Frankfort, and he really matured and filled out during that time," said Bradley. "He wasn't all out winning his last two, and I'm pretty confident he's still got some improvement left."

The Donn will be only the second time Bradley, 42, has saddled a horse in a Grade 1 race.

"Obviously it would be great to win my first Grade 1, and it would be even more special to do it with this horse, since he's owned by my dad and I've been right there with him since day one," said Bradley. "I actually pulled him out of his mother when he was foaled."

Patience paying off for McCarty

Owner Mike McCarty has Doctor Decherd, the Aventura Stakes winner, running in the Holy Bull Stakes on Saturday. And his most accomplished 2-year-old from last year, Private Vow, recently had his first recorded workout of the year as he prepares to return to the races. That gives McCarty, from Austin, Texas, two of the better 3-year-olds training in south Florida this winter.

"This is the fifth year he's had horses with me," said Steve Asmussen, who trains both Doctor Decherd and Private Vow for McCarty, who is in the construction business. "He has 10 horses with me. This year, he's got a couple of nice ones. We've laid a couple eggs for him in previous years. He's proven to be quite hearty and durable, so I hope a couple reward him for his staying power."

* Barbican, who won a first-level allowance on Jan. 15 at Gulfstream, bypassed the Holy Bull and will instead go in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 20, according to his trainer, Eoin Harty.

* Superfly, who was third in the Champagne Stakes and fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, makes his first start of the year in a first-level allowance sprint going seven furlongs in Saturday's fifth race. He is trained by Nick Zito.

* In addition to the Todd Pletcher-trained Bluegrass Cat, who won last fall's Remsen Stakes, another local 3-year-old pointing for the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 18 is Pegasus By Storm, a Michael Matz trainee who also last ran in the Remsen on Nov. 26.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman