05/23/2009 12:00AM

Brass Hat shows turf stuff

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Brass Hat, with Calvin Borel up, rallies to victory in the 1 1/2-mile Louisville Handicap.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Buff Bradley always felt Brass Hat was a quality turf horse, even though the 8-year-old gelding had been winless in all seven of his starts on the surface.

Saturday in the Grade 3, $111,800 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs, that assessment proved accurate, as Brass Hat rallied from sixth to outkick favored Spice Route by a half-length under Calvin Borel.

Unlike in some of Brass Hat's previous grass starts, things unfolded favorably for his late-running style. The eventual third-place finisher, Thabazimbi, set a quick pace in the 1 1/2-mile turf contest, establishing fractions of 48.95 and 1:13.72 over a firm course. That allowed Brass Hat to settle in a comfortable rhythm in a strung-out field while avoiding a wide trip.

Then as the leader began to tire on the far turn, Spice Route kicked into gear to take the lead in midstretch, only to be passed by the Brass Hat in the final furlong. Brass Hat, a son of Prized, raced the 1 1/2 miles in 2:28.44, paying $14.

"Calvin gave him a great ride," said Bradley. "He had him in the right spot."

Borel had his mounts in the right spot all day, with Brass Hat capping a five-win day for him.

"He's got so much class," Borel said of Brass Hat, who with the win increased his earnings to $1,892,360.

Brass Hat's victory was his first in 609 days, following a score in the Massachusetts Handicap on Sept. 22, 2007. He won the Grade 1 Donn Handicap and Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap in 2006. But injuries had limited his racing schedule in recent years, one of the reasons Bradley elected to race him more on turf.

In the jubilant celebration that immediately followed Brass Hat's victory, Bradley didn't rule out a return to dirt for Brass Hat, who is owned by his father, Fred Bradley.

"I'd like to run him back on dirt," he said, though he noted that a turnaround into the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs June 13 "might be a little quick."

Bradley also mentioned the July 4 United Nations at Monmouth as a possible next start if Brass Hat is kept on turf.