02/24/2006 1:00AM

Fans say bon voyage to local hero Brass Hat

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Turfway Park is making plans to acknowledge one of its own.

Brass Hat, the 5-year-old gelding who will race next in the March 25 Dubai World Cup, will be honored between races next Saturday after breezing over the Polytrack surface at his home track in Florence, Ky.

Trainer Buff Bradley acknowledged Friday that plans were being finalized for an afternoon during which local fans will get to express their appreciation for what Brass Hat has accomplished. Brass Hat will ship to Dubai off consecutive victories in the Dec. 17 Prairie Bayou at Turfway, the Jan. 7 New Orleans Handicap at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs, and the Feb. 4 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

"When he won the Donn, the roar from the Homestretch [simulcast room] was incredible," said Sherry Pinson, director of media relations for Turfway. "Buff and his family have a lot of friends and support here, and the horse trains here and has won two stakes here. Turfway wanted to recognize them before they leave for Dubai."

Brass Hat is scheduled to arrive in Dubai on March 15 after a layover in Miami, said Bradley, adding he will join the horse "a couple days later." Bradley, 42, will be accompanied by his daughter Kory who will turn 11 the day after the World Cup. The $6 million World Cup will be by far the richest race in which Bradley, who began training in 1993, has started a horse.

The World Cup will come a little more than two years after Brass Hat won for the first time. He was a maiden with two previous defeats when he posted a 38-1 upset in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway on the Lane's End Stakes undercard of March 20, 2004. Since then, the gelding, who was bred and is owned by Bradley's father, Fred, has won five more stakes.

The between-races breeze next Saturday will be the third for Brass Hat since the Donn. He worked what Bradley termed "the easiest kind" of five furlongs on Feb. 18 in 1:06.60, and was scheduled to have another five-furlong breeze Saturday morning at Turfway.

"I think the Polytrack has been very good for him," said Bradley. "It's been very good for him and easy on him, but he's also staying pretty fit off it. Everything has been great and everything's been the same. We're just trying to maintain him, that's all."

Besides the Brass Hat workout and subsequent tribute, the March 4 Turfway card also will feature the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial. The 1 1/16-mile Battaglia is the local prep for the annual Turfway showcase, the $500,000 Lane's End.

Lane's End nominations closed Wednesday and were scheduled for release this weekend. Turfway stakes coordinator Randy Wehrman said the race has attracted 155 nominations, up about 20 percent from last year.

Like the Dubai World Cup, the Grade 2 Lane's End is set for March 25.

* Dean Butler had five live mounts on the Friday night card at Turfway, so he and his friends were hoping his drive for the 1,000-win mark was about to end. Butler entered the program with 999 career wins.

* It won't be long before some of the Kentucky stables that went elsewhere for the winter begin returning home. The stable area at Churchill Downs reopens March 10.