08/27/2010 12:13PM

Brass Hat makes first Ellis Park appearance in Guilliams

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Brass Hat will race at Ellis Park for the first time in the Cliff Guilliams Memorial on Labor Day.

An appearance by Brass Hat will help put an exclamation mark on the Ellis Park meet when the $2 million earner runs in the $50,000 Cliff Guilliams Memorial, the closing-day feature on Labor Day at the Henderson, Ky., track.

“We’re all really looking forward to it,” trainer Buff Bradley said this week at his home base of Churchill Downs. “My dad is originally from that part of Kentucky, and he’s really excited about taking the horse down there for all the people who’ve never had a chance to see him.”

Brass Hat has made 37 starts at 16 different tracks while based primarily in Kentucky throughout his career, but, remarkably, none has been at Ellis. The 9-year-old Brass Hat is just $2,079 shy of hitting the $2.1 million mark in earnings, having competed at far more renowned tracks such as Nad al Sheba, Saratoga, Gulfstream, and Churchill.

Brass Hat was bred and is owned by Bradley’s father, Fred Bradley, a longtime Kentucky legislator who grew up near Ellis in the small town of Providence and now splits his time between the state capital of Frankfort and Gulf Shores, Ala. Buff Bradley said his dad has a winner’s circle photograph of himself from 1938 at the track when it was still known as Dade Park.

Brass Hat has had three workouts at Churchill since getting several weeks off following a subpar eighth-place finish in his most recent start, the June 26 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows.

“In hindsight, his final work before the Cornhusker might’ve taken too much out of him,” said Buff Bradley. “After that we gave him a little time at the farm in Frankfort, and he’s come back good as ever. Now that the weather’s cooled off some, he’s just been dragging the rider around there and not wanting to come off the racetrack. He’s ready to run again.”

The Guilliams is run at 1 1/16 miles on turf, which Bradley concedes “might be a little short for the horse,” but he is hoping Brass Hat can outclass the opposition. Twenty-eight older horses are nominated, with other notables being Inca King, Timeless Fashion, and Yate’s Black Cat.

The Guilliams will be the fourth and last stakes this summer at Ellis, where the 27-day meet is in its second-to-last weekend. The final four-day stretch comes Sept. 3-6. Live action on the Kentucky circuit then moves to Turfway Park in Florence for a 16-day meet that starts Sept. 9.

Good meet for March’s small stable

Trainer Bill March has enjoyed his summer at Ellis, and why not? The 63-year-old retired policeman from Miami won with 3 of his first 4 starters, including two wins by Stig’s Deputy and one by Spikey Italiano.

March grew up in Florida but played college football at Eastern Kentucky University, near where his family has a farm in Campbellsville, Ky. A trainer for 20 years, March has been based mostly in Kentucky and recently took his eight-horse stable to Ellis.

“I’ll go to Hoosier or Keeneland next,” said March, whose career stalled badly in 2007-08, a period when he was grieving the death of his son. “I’m just trying to build my stable back up.”

March’s biggest career win came with Special Coach in the 1999 Jefferson Cup at Churchill.

Maker in command for leading trainer

Mike Maker has had his best horses in action at Saratoga this summer, but that hasn’t stopped him from taking control of the trainers’ race at Ellis. While keeping an active stable at Trackside in Louisville, Maker has worn down the opposition. Into Friday, and through the first 20 days of the meet, Maker had won with 11 of 28 starters for earnings of $157,719, meet-highs in all categories.

Meanwhile, Victor Lebron recently took a 29-28 edge over Corey Lanerie atop the jockey standings with a recent flurry of winners, but Friday was to be Lebron’s last day at Ellis because he will serve a pair of three-day suspensions stemming from riding infarctions, causing him to miss the last six days of action, said agent Steve Elzey. Lebron’s absence is sure to give Lanerie his first Ellis title.

Three Kentucky Cup races still scheduled

While financial duress led Turfway to cancel its Kentucky Cup series this fall, its sister track, Kentucky Downs, is going ahead with its three Kentucky Cup turf races on Sept. 11, the first of four 2010 racing dates at the Franklin, Ky., track.

The surviving Kentucky Cup races are the $150,000 KC Turf, the $50,000 KC Ladies, and the $50,000 KC Dash. The other Kentucky Downs dates are Sept. 13, 18, and 20.

Hotel rooms scarce for Keeneland’s first weekend

Officials at Keeneland are continuing to remind horsemen and fans who plan to be in attendance for “FallStars Weekend” on opening weekend of the fall meet (Oct. 8-10) that hotel rooms in the Lexington area could be quite scarce. The World Equestrian Games will run Sept. 25 through Oct. 10 at the Kentucky Horse Park and will attract tens of thousands of out-of-town visitors during that time.

As usual, “FallStars” will include a number of important prep races toward the Breeders’ Cup, which is set for Nov. 5-6 at Churchill.