08/28/2007 12:00AM

Brass Hat returns to Spa for Woodward

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Despite a less than satisfying experience in the Whitney, Brass Hat is returning to Saratoga to run in the $500,000 Woodward on Saturday.

Brass Hat set a track record at Churchill Downs on July 8 in his first start back after being sidelined for a year with an injury, but was not a factor in the Whitney on July 28 and finished eighth. Trainer William "Buff" Bradley, who manages the 6-year-old gelding for his father, breeder-owner Fred Bradley, said Brass Hat has convinced him he is ready to try Grade 1 stakes company again.

"He's doing really good," Bradley said. "His last couple of works have shown that he has not lost a step at all."

On Aug. 17, Brass Hat breezed five furlongs at Churchill Downs in 1:00.60, the fourth-fastest time of 45 at the distance that day. Two days later, Student Council, whom Brass Hat beat by a head in the record time of 1:41.27 for 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs, won the $1 million Pacific Classic.

Bradley said that when Brass Hat bounced out of the Whitney in good shape, it was decided that circumstances may have been the reason for the poor performance at Saratoga.

"We figured on a few things in that race and maybe we ran him back a little quick after his record-breaking performance," Bradley said. "He was stuck down on the rail for a while, and I don't think he liked that a whole lot. He likes to be a little wider and maybe we should have had him a little bit more forwardly placed.

"That being said, we'll change strategies a little bit and hopefully have a little better shot at them this go-round."

Rags to Riches temperature normal

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Tuesday morning that Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches appeared to have recovered from the fever that caused him to cancel Monday's scheduled workout.

"Her temperature has been normal for the past 24 hours," he said. "She's bright, alert, and happy."

Tuesday afternoon he received the results of her blood work, which came back normal.

"We're going to put her back in light training [Wednesday] and continue to monitor her," Pletcher said. "We'll probably schedule a breeze this weekend and go from there."

Pletcher had been pointing Rags to Riches for the Ruffian at Belmont on Sept. 8. Another possible race is the Gazelle on Sept. 15.

The Grade 1 Ruffian would be Rags to Riches' first race against older fillies and mares. The Grade 1 Gazelle is for 3-year-old fillies.

Rags to Riches has not raced since edging Curlin in the Belmont Stakes on June 9. She missed the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 21 because her training was interrupted when she spiked a fever. Rags to Riches was given a thorough physical examination after she was pulled up at the start of a five-furlong work on July 22. She missed about a week of training and was not ready for the Alabama, but had been doing well for a month.

Pletcher horses drill for stakes

Two of Pletcher's 3-year-old stakes horses breezed on the main track at Saratoga on Tuesday morning. Cowtown Cat, who is headed for the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Monday at Philadelphia Park, covered five furlongs in 1:01.48. Distorted Reality, who will run in the Grade 3 Saranac on the turf Sunday at Saratoga, completed a half-mile in 48.46 seconds.

Also prepping for a stakes Tuesday morning was Chatain, who turned in four furlongs in 48.02 seconds, the second-fastest time of 30 at the distance. Chatain, trained by Angel J. Penna Jr. for the Lazy F Ranch, was preparing for Saturday's Grade 1 Forego.

Praying for Cash to Forego

It has been a roller-coaster year for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, having to retire defending Horse of the Year Invasor and Grade 1 winner Flashy Bull while welcoming the impressive turf star Shakespeare to his barn.

McLaughlin acquired another horse earlier this year who just may be Grade 1 material as well. Praying for Cash, a Grade 2 winner as a 3-year-old, made a most impressive 4-year-old debut for McLaughlin last month, winning a third-level allowance race at Belmont.

Saturday, Praying for Cash will return to Grade 1 company when he runs in the $250,000 Forego Stakes at Saratoga.

Last year, Praying for Cash had most of his success for trainer Kelly Breen, winning the Grade 3 Long Branch and running second to Bluegrass Cat in the Haskell. Praying for Cash was transferred to Todd Pletcher in the fall of 2006 and he finished fifth, beaten 10 lengths, in the Grade 3 Perryville at Keeneland.

When Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo purchased part of the horse from former college basketball star Bobby Hurley, Praying for Cash was turned over to McLaughlin, who had trained Eavesdropper for Hartley and DeRenzo.

McLaughlin got him to the races at Belmont on July 13, and Praying for Cash went gate to wire, winning a 6o1/2-furlong allowance race by 5 1/4 lengths and earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 103.

"It didn't surprise us, but I was impressed with his style and the way he did it," McLaughlin said.

Since Praying for Cash did earn a career-best speed figure, McLauglin wanted to give him plenty of time between races.

"It was a really good race," McLaughlin said. "He's done well with a little time, obviously. He's training great, doing very well."

McLaughlin said a top-three finish by Praying for Cash on Saturday could earn him a start in the Breeders' Cup. The decision then would be whether to point for the $2 million Sprint at six furlongs or the new $1 million BC Dirt Mile, which will actually be run at a mile and 70 yards. The Breeders' Cup is being held at Monmouth Park, where Praying for Cash has three wins and two seconds from five starts.

A solid field is shaping up for the Forego, including Attila's Storm, Awesome Twist, Benny the Bull, Chatain, High Finance, How's Your Halo, Midnight Lute, Praying for Cash, and Simon Pure.

- additional reporting by David Grening