10/02/2004 11:00PM

Brass Hat wins Indiana Derby off layoff

Jim Linscott
Brass Hat returns from a 3 1/2 month layoff to upset the Grade 2, $511,320 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park on Saturday night.

Anderson, Ind. - Brass Hat returned off a 3 1/2 month layoff with a strong stretch run to take Saturday night's Grade 2, $511,320 by a widening 1 3/4 lengths under Willie Martinez.

The win confirmed his 20-1 upset in the Grade 2 Ohio Derby on June 12 for trainer Buff Bradley, a race that Brass Hat came out of with a bruised pastern.

"After the Ohio Derby, he came back with an injury," Bradley said. "The vet told us to give him three weeks off, but we decided to give him double that time. During his layoff, he gained weight and got stronger. He did a lot of running and was in pretty good shape when we started back training him."

Sitting off a pace set by Avid Skier and Hasslefree, the tempo quicked up the backstretch with Quinton's Gold Rush, Edgerrin and Pollard's Vision all making moves for the front nearing the far turn.

Martinez angled Brass Hat to the outside through the turn, moving with Suave to his inside, reached the front nearing the eighth marker and moved clear to post the win in 1:44.04 over a fast track. Suave continued his move but settled for second with Hasslefree holding well for third, just three-quarters of a length back in the field of nine.

"He's never really gotten respect, and I was a little surprised the betting public didn't recognize him more tonight," Martinez said in the winner's circle. Continuing his legacy of upsets, Brass Hat returned $22 for the win and combined with Suave for an 8-7 exacta worth $109. The win moves Brass Hat's career mark to 3-4-0 from 8 starts and earnings of $624,430.

On the Derby undercard, Bruce On The Loose ($8.80) scored a 1 1/4 length win over a field of 12 in the $40,000 Hillsdale Stakes for Indiana-bred 2-year-olds with Lester Knight aboard.

Rafael Bejarano finished up the 12-race card by guiding Ellens Lucky Star to a smahing 9 3/4 length win over One Eyed Jackie in the $40,000 Richmond Stakes for older Indiana-bred fillies and mares.