06/14/2006 12:00AM

Brass Hat thrives as owner frets


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Buff Bradley is glad his horse recovered more quickly than he did. Bradley has gone through just about every negative emotion since being informed by officials at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai that his stable star, Brass Hat, was being disqualified from second-place money in the March 25 Dubai World Cup.

Brass Hat, owned by Bradley's father, Fred Bradley, would have earned $1.2 million from the $6 million purse, but, pending a June 26 appeal via teleconference, the money has been withheld because the horse tested positive for trace amounts of methyl-prednisolone acetate, a banned corticosteroid. In his first race since the World Cup, Brass Hat will run Saturday in the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.

"Obviously, this has been an extremely difficult period for all of us, so of course we're looking forward to Saturday," said Bradley. "I'm fired up for the race."

Brass Hat has been training extremely well, said Bradley, and the trainer has seen no ill effects from the rigors of shipping to and from Dubai.

"He's actually gained weight and acts like he's ready to go," said Bradley.

Wanderin Boy passes the race

One of the notable absentees from the Foster lineup is Wanderin Boy, who surely would have been a major pace factor. Trainer Nick Zito said he and owner Arthur Hancock seriously considered the race before taking a pass.

"The horse just had three races in 42 days," Zito said Wednesday from New York. "It would've been nice to run, because everybody knows I love racing in Kentucky, and the race is in Arthur's backyard. We'll just have to find something else. We'll shoot for Saratoga with him, then hopefully come back to Kentucky in the fall."

Wanderin Boy romped to back-to-back victories at Keeneland in April, ending with the Ben Ali Handicap, before finishing second as the odds-on favorite in the May 19 Pimlico Special.

Zito had many other nominations to the Foster Day races, including nine 3-year-olds in the Jefferson Cup alone, but he will have no starters here Saturday.

"A lot of horses ran in Baltimore or New York, and between all the rain and some coughing and this and that, we just came up short for Foster Day," said Zito.

Pletcher sending out eight on day

Barn 34 will be a very busy place Saturday. That's the local base of operations for Todd Pletcher, who leads all trainers with eight starters in the six Foster Day stakes. Pletcher will be represented by Tahoe Warrior and Mercurius in the Jefferson Cup, High Cotton and Circle the World (Northern Dancer), Magnificent Song (Regret), Oonagh Maccool and La Reason (Fleur de Lis), and West Virginia (Stephen Foster).

Pletcher intends to maintain a full barn of 36 horses at Churchill through the end of the fall meet in late November, as opposed to moving the horses elsewhere while live racing on the Kentucky circuit shifts to Ellis Park and Turfway Park for nearly three months leading into the Keeneland fall meet in October.

"We'll rotate some of our better horses out of here when the spring meet ends, most of them to Saratoga," said Pletcher's assistant, Mike McCarthy. "We'll basically be training and regrouping here. We might run a few at Ellis and Arlington, but mostly we'll be keeping a low profile."

Kuntzweiler nears return

Jockey Greta Kuntzweiler could return to riding as early as June 29, if she is approved, as expected, for a jockey license by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority.

Kuntzweiler was arrested, but later exonerated, on drug charges in January, and has been in substance rehabilitation programs since then. She will be represented by the agent known only as Clarence.