02/04/2006 1:00AM

Brass Hat storybook winner in Donn

Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO
Brass Hat, Willie Martinez riding, splashes home an $18.60 winner in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Brass Hat put a fitting ending on his Cinderella story when exploding from off the pace to an easy 4 3/4-length victory over Pies Prospect while also setting a track record in the $500,000 at Gulfstream Park. The Grade 1 Donn was the richest of six stakes on Gulfstream's Spectacular Saturday II card.

Brass Hat, a gelded son of Prized, was bred by his owner, Fred F. Bradley, and is trained by Bradley's son, William "Buff" Bradley. The 5-year-old Brass Hat was sidelined 13 months because of a condylar fracture in his right ankle suffered during the Lone Star Derby in October 2004 and was nursed back to health on the Bradley's 323-acre Indian Ridge Farm in Frankfort, Ky., by William Bradley's wife, Kim.

The Donn marked the first Grade 1 start for Brass Hat and was only the second Grade 1 starter for the 42-year-old Bradley, who is based at Turfway Park in Kentucky.

"This has been incredible," a teary-eyed Bradley said minutes after recording his first Grade 1 victory. "It's a dream, and the whole team that's been involved with this horse has to get credit for this victory."

Brass Hat's cause was aided when four horses, On Thin Ice, Suave, Magna Graduate, and Pies Prospect all went for the lead around the clubhouse turn of the 1 1/8-mile race. Magna Graduate and Pies Prospect eventually emerged from the pack and drew off a half-dozen lengths in front of the rest of field while battling head to head into the stretch.

Willie Martinez, Brass Hat's regular rider dating back to his victory in the 2004 Ohio Derby, put his horse in good position despite breaking from the extreme outside in a field of nine older horses. Brass Hat burst out of the pack with a strong run leaving the backstretch, joined the embattled leaders in early stretch, and easily drew clear through the final furlong.

Pies Prospect held on gamely to finish second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of stablemate Andromeda's Hero. The pair were part of a three-horse Nick Zito-trained, entry along with Seek Gold. Suave, the 2-1 favorite, tired to finished a well beaten sixth.

Brass Hat covered the distance in 1:47.79 over a sloppy track, eclipsing the old track record of 1:48.05 set by On Thin Ice four weeks earlier. Brass Hat paid $18.60.

"When he got up to third I felt pretty confident because he was running strong and the leaders had been in a hard duel," said Bradley, who added he had no definite plans for Brass Hat's next start.