01/11/2006 12:00AM

A horse close to Trosclair's heart

Lou Hodges Jr.
Brass Hat, winning the New Orleans Handicap, is expected to start in the Donn Handicap.

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Many horse trainers will tell you they cannot afford to develop an emotional attachment to the animals they train. Treat it as a business, goes the mantra. But if you're a trainer with 10 or 12 horses, a trainer who often gallops his own stock, and sometimes even grooms them, it's hard to keep things impersonal.

When the 3-year-old colt Hyte Regency had his final breeze Wednesday morning for Saturday's Risen Star Stakes, his trainer, Jeff Trosclair, was more than a detached observer. Trosclair walked up the horse path to the racetrack holding a lead shank with Hyte Regency on the other end of it, and walked back to the barn after Hyte Regency's half-mile breeze the same way. During the work, Trosclair bobbed on the balls of his feet; when Hyte Regency swept around the clubhouse turn during his gallop-out, Trosclair looked like he was almost ready to chase after him on foot.

So much for strictly business.

Hyte Regency, who finished third in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in his final start at 2 and looks like one of the ones Saturday in the Risen Star Stakes, seems like the best horse Trosclair has trained since Skate Away tragically left his care. At 4 and 5, Skate Away - like Hyte Regency, owned by J. Mack Robinson - developed into a graded-stakes class turf horse. In the week leading up to his third-place finish in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Handicap in 2004, Trosclair had to be even more hands-on than usual. Skate Away had sent his regular groom to the hospital, and Trosclair pretty much took that job over.

But that May, in the Turf Classic on Derby Day at Churchill, something went terribly wrong. Skate Away was being eased when he fell to the turf, and he never got up.

"I didn't ask for an autopsy," Trosclair said. "What was done was done."

But that one hurt. "I wanted to quit. I went back to the hotel room and told my wife, 'I'm done.' It took me a long time to get over that," Trosclair said.

Now, Trosclair has fallen for Hyte Regency, whom Robinson bought out of a 2-year-old in training sale last April for $65,000. Even with a less-than-fashionable pedigree, that price seemed like a bargain to Trosclair, since Hyte Regency had breezed a quarter-mile in 21.20 seconds, and Trosclair was ready to bid more.

Hyte Regency's third-place finish behind top-class Private Vow in the KJC gave his connections hope for a strong 3-year-old season. Trosclair backed off after the KJC, but between a series of strong gallops and a good six-furlong work here Jan. 4, Hyte Regency looks ready for the Risen Star.

"The next couple races are going to tell us a lot about where he belongs," Trosclair said.

Brass Hat on target for Donn Handicap

New Orleans Handicap winner Brass Hat left before dawn the morning after the race for trainer Buff Bradley's Indian Ridge Farm near Frankfort, Ky., but he will not rest for long. Bradley said Wednesday that as long as things were right, Brass Hat will make his next start in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 4 at Gulfstream Park.

"We'd ship down to Gulfstream probably two weeks out and get a work over the track," Bradley said.

Brass Hat has won both of his starts this season after returning from a condylar fracture sustained in the 2004 Lone Star Derby. The injury required surgery and the insertion of screws in the joint, but Brass Hat clearly has made a full recovery.

"You hope they come back as good as they once were, but I had a little question there," Bradley said. "He's answered it."

Brass Hat will "walk and jog a little" while he's at the farm, Bradley said, before getting serious about his next start.

"He's fit, and he's doing well," Bradley said.

Happy Ticket impressive in three-furlong work

Trainer Andy Leggio waited 21 days to give Happy Ticket her second official workout after she returned to training here late last year, but Happy Ticket is still Happy Ticket. Sunday, she turned in a bullet three-furlong work in 34.80 seconds, and that despite being kept under wraps by jockey Robby Albarado.

"She's pretty awesome," said Albarado, who has been aboard Happy Ticket for her two recent works. "Anybody who rode her would think that."

Happy Ticket had throat surgery after her lackluster performance in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, and the big question is how she will hold up in her first race back. When that race will come remains uncertain, but Leggio said he planned to put Happy Ticket on a regular breezing schedule now.

"I didn't want to put too much stress on her right away," Leggio said. "We backed off a little, but now we'll try to start breezing her every 10 days or so. She went her last eighth in 10 and two the other day. She was pretty impressive. I couldn't be any happier with her."

Meanwhile, the other Louisiana-bred standout filly on the grounds, The Beter Man Can, wasn't entered in Saturday's Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap. Trainer Pat Mouton had considered putting her in the race in case rain forced the Bayou onto the main track, but with dry conditions forecast, Mouton will wait for the Louisiana Lagniappe Ladies on Jan. 21. The Beter Man Can, a winner of 7 of her 11 starts and a standout in the Louisiana Champions Day Distaff, zipped six furlongs in 1:12.20 here Saturday.

* Jockey Gerard Melancon began serving a seven-calendar-day suspension on Jan. 9. Melancon had appealed a stewards ruling for careless riding, but the Louisiana Racing Commission upheld the suspension in a meeting last week. The commission also reinstated veteran jockey Francisco Torres, who hasn't ridden since losing his license in 2004. Torres was named to ride here Friday.