09/04/2010 10:23AM

Brass Hat pays first visit to Ellis Park


Fred Bradley was merely a wee lad when the Dade Park track photographer included him in a winner’s circle shot in 1938. Little would anyone have known then that Bradley would be back at the Henderson, Ky., track more than 70 years later as the owner-breeder of one of the most popular racehorses of his era in Kentucky, a gelding named Brass Hat, who on Monday will make his first-ever start at what now is Ellis Park.
Bradley, who grew up some 35 miles south of Ellis in the small Webster County town of Providence, will be on hand to proudly showcase Brass Hat in the $50,000 Cliff Guilliams Memorial, the closing-day feature of the 27-day meet. The Brass Hat appearance is exactly the kind of happening that Guilliams, a longtime chart-caller and turf writer, reveled in, as he had become the de facto historian for Ellis prior to his untimely death at age 52 in April 2008.
Brass Hat has earned nearly $2.1 million in a storybook career that began Jan. 29, 2004, with a runner-up finish in a maiden-claiming sprint at Turfway Park. It has wound through 36 more races at 15 more tracks and has been highlighted by wins in such major races as the Ohio Derby in 2004, the New Orleans and Donn handicaps in 2006, and the Massachusetts Handicap in 2007.
“My dad is really excited about bringing the horse to Ellis because he still has friends there after all these years,” said Buff Bradley, who has trained 9-year-old Brass Hat throughout his career. “Hopefully we can put on a show for them.”
Brass Hat had been in decent form until the Grade 2 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows, where he never fired when finishing eighth. Buff Bradley suspects a too-fast workout prior to the June 26 race as a reason for the clunker, “but the main thing is he’s really bounced back from that,” he said.
Clearly the horse to beat in the Guilliams, a 1 1/16-mile turf race, is Inca King, whose penchant for being forwardly placed may give him an edge over the stretch-running Brass Hat. A veritable “win machine,” as owner Ken Ramsey calls him, Inca King will be gunning for his 17th victory in his 35th start.