Indiana Derby Legend: Brass Hat

July 12, 2016 05:01pm
Brass Hat 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire


When a racing fan hears the word "Derby" typically one thing comes to mind, the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby is the most prestigious and historical event in racing, quite simply it's legendary. Though the Indiana Derby has only been around since 1995, it has produced some exciting finishes and some legendary horses.


Brass Hat came from the humblest of beginnings. The homebred son of Prized, out of the Dixie Brass mare, Brassy made his debut at Turfway Park for the claiming price of a mere $15,000. William (Buff) Bradley was the conditioner of Brass Hat and Buff's father, Fred Bradley was the owner.


I don't think anyone, even Fred or Buff, knew what kind of ride Brass Hat would be taking them on when he entered the gates on that January day. Brass Hat was disregarded by the betting public going off at odds of over 32-1. He started next to last but closed strongly to finish second. He would never be offered up for claim again.


Brass Hat broke his maiden two starts later in stylish fashion in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park. He was understandably disregarded in this race going off at odds of 38-1. He pulled off the shocker, crushing the field of sophomore colts and geldings by 3 3/4-lengths.


His next victory would come 4 starts later, and again at big odds in the grade III Ohio Derby. He again crushed his opposition, drawing away by 3 lengths ahead of runner-up, and Kentucky Derby participant, Pollard's Vision. Your reward for backing Brass Hat this day was a 21-1 price. 


2004 was not only a special year for Brass Hat, it was also a special year for yours truly. It was the first time I was given the privilege of watching and wagering on the sport of kings. It was also the first time I attended the Indiana Derby. Brass Hat would make sure I would never miss another one.


I remember getting to the track early, Hoosier Park was packed that night. You could feel the electricity in the air. The stars all aligned on the Hoosier state, circling in on Hoosier Park.


John Velazquez made the trip to ride Brass Hat's rival, Pollard's Vision who was trained by Todd Pletcher. D. Wayne Lukas saddled long-shot Hasslefree. A young Rafael Bejarano would ride Sir Shackleton for Hall-of-Famer Nick Zito. It was a "who's who" of racing and I was experiencing it for the first time.


As they entered the paddock, just a few moments before the race. I got a birds eye view of all the horses, the jockeys, and the trainers. I remember reading the form and looking over the horses. I settled on #8 as my selection, 10-1 shot, Brass Hat, ridden by Willie Martinez.


As the horses entered the track for the post parade you could hear Back Home Again in Indiana playing through the loud speakers. A tradition that is typically associated with the Indy 500, but one that gives me goose bumps every time I witness it.


When the gates opened you could hear the hoofs rattling, the ground shaking as the 3-year-old's flew through the stretch the first time. Brass Hat was void of any early speed sitting last. Avid Skier, Suave, Pollard's Vision, and Hasslefree all dueled for the lead early. The foursome dueled for a half mile until Suave assumed command at the top of the stretch with a four wide move. Hasslefree battled gamely on the rail, Brass Hat seemed to sprout wings, making a huge 5 wide move under jockey Willie Martinez. He ran down Suave and drew off the take the grade II Indiana Derby by 1 3/4-lengths


With Brass Hat's victory in the Indiana Derby, a legend was born. For the father-son combination of Fred and Buff Bradley, the ride was just beginning. Brass Hat would take them all over the world, including Dubai where he crossed the line second in the world's richest race.


The Prized gelding went on to win The grade I Donn Handicap, the grade II New Orleans Handicap, the prestigious Massachusetts Handicap, and the grade III Sycamore Handicap. He won graded stakes on dirt and turf and finished his career with 10 wins in 40 starts earning over 2 million dollars. He raced till the grand old age of 9 and even won a graded stake in his second to last start. 


This Indiana Derby Legend will always be #1 in my mind and in my heart.


(This blog is in honor and memory of the late great Fred Bradley)



 

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My journey into the sport of kings has been different than most. I do not boast a royal pedigree, and in fact, before my interest in horse racing, my family thought the Kentucky Derby was the only race of the year! I'm the son of a minor league baseball player and a homemaker, which doesn't exactly scream grade I winner.


My passion for the sport started about 8 years ago.I was watching as Funny Cide was making his triple crown run. The “Gutsy Gelding” had my eyes glued to the television with each of his triple crown races. After watching Funny Cide on TV. I decided to make a trip down to our local track, Indiana Downs.This would be an experience that would change my life.

I looked over the program, while having no idea what I was doing,I decided to put my 5 dollars on a horse named Apollonea. As the gates broke and the announcer began his race call, I heard the words Apollonea to the lead. My excitement grew as I watched my horse lead all the way around the track, eventually drawing to win by an easy five lengths. Apollonea paid 58.00 to win, I was hooked from that point on.

For the past 8 years my life has been horse racing.  I've tried to educate myself on every aspect of the sport and learn about it's past. The incredible run of the Super Filly Rachel Alexandra would also change my life. It was my intense passion and love for Rachel that would bring me to meet some of the greatest  people in the world. I owe a lot to Rachel and this sport for introducing me to such wonderful people.


I want this blog to show that Indiana Racing stacks up with any track, anywhere! It will also show what great value can be found in Indiana for the bettors, and not to mention, the incredible purses for the owners and trainers.

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