12/14/2006 12:00AM

Chief Export a major plus for Bradleys

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Chief Export will try to tack on a small measure of consolation to what has been a bittersweet and unforgettable year for the Bradley family when he runs as one of the prime contenders Saturday in the $50,000 Prairie Bayou Stakes at Turfway Park.

Fred Bradley and his son, trainer Buff Bradley, are co-owners of Chief Export, who will break from post 3 in a full field of 12 entered in the 1 1/8-mile Prairie Bayou. Earlier this year, the Bradleys experienced elation and heartbreak when their stable star, Brass Hat, won the New Orleans and Donn handicaps, then was disqualified from second in the $6 million Dubai World Cup after testing positive for a banned medication.

"This certainly has been a year of incredible highs and lows for my family," said Buff Bradley.

Chief Export has been responsible for some of the highs. After winning a Turfway maiden race in early April, the 4-year-old gelding reeled off three more wins, all at Churchill Downs, before being beaten a nose in a third-level allowance race.

"He had a pretty bad lung infection in that last race, so we had to stop on him," said Bradley.

Since returning in September, Chief Export has raced three times, sandwiching a pair of runner-up finishes around a ninth-place finish in what Bradley called "an extremely tough field" in the Nov. 3 River City Handicap on the Churchill turf.

Chief Export, with Phil Teator to ride, is part of what appears to be a well-matched field for the 12th running of the Prairie Bayou, which is carded as the 11th of 12 races on a program that starts at 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Other contenders include Special Event, who is eligible for second-level allowance conditions but nonetheless brings competitive form and Beyer Speed Figures into this; Gin and Sin, a sharp winner of his last two starts; Mesawmi, a consistent gelding trained by Pat Byrne; and the uncoupled Harvey Vanier-trained duo of Air Academy and Victory Flyer.

The Prairie Bayou is named for the gelding who in 1993 won the Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway and the Preakness before suffering a fatal breakdown in the Belmont Stakes.

* Brass Hat, who suffered a non-displaced condylar fracture in a workout last summer, has been "walking about an hour a day" on an exercise machine called Equi-Gym and could return to light training in two or three months, said Bradley.