Oh, the Things Brass Hat Could Tell Us

Brass Hat would be a perfect candidate for public office in Kentucky.

He was born in the Bluegrass, is an underdog that exceeded all expectations, overcame injury and adversity, has a pretty good following and, perhaps most importantly, can only speak through his actions.

Oh for politicians and industry officials who would talk less and do more.

Brass Hat paraded in the paddock at Turfway Park Oct. 2 as part of an interactive fan appreciation day put on by horsemen and track management. The 9-year-old gelding, who has trained at Turfway his entire career, looked really good and is expected to race later this fall in Kentucky.

Brass Hat began his career in a $15,000 maiden claiming race in January 2004 at Turfway, and in March that year broke his maiden in the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes there. He went on to win eight stakes—a grade I, three grade IIs, and two grade IIIs—and has earned $2.1 million.

Brass Hat also finished second in the prestigious group I Dubai World Cup, only to be disqualified and placed last for a medication “violation” that embarrassed the horse racing industry a lot more than it embarrassed his connections.

The gelding is a poster boy for much of what’s good about horse racing, and also for a Kentucky racing circuit that’s in serious jeopardy.

Photo: Pat Lang
Caption: Willie Martinez, who visited with Brass Hat at Turfway Oct. 2, rode him to several of his major stakes victories.

Didn’t see his trainer, Buff Bradley, at Turfway, but his absence probably had to do with the fact he had a horse in at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in neighboring Indiana that day. Bradley’s horse finished second in a $33,000 starter allowance race.

The purse was the second-lowest on the $1 million Indiana Derby program at Hoosier Park. It also was higher than any purse offered at Turfway during its 16-day late summer-early fall meet with the exception of a $100,000 grade III stakes.

That’s pathetic, and it keeps getting worse with each passing year. For the record, when Brass Hat raced in a maiden special weight event at Turfway in February 2004, the purse was $29,600. Seven years later, the purse is $21,000.

Like members of Congress, who left Washington, D.C., early despite having plenty to do in order to prepare for the November election, Kentucky politicians are missing in action. It’s all about politicking and glad-handing in advance of November.

There wasn’t a lawmaker in sight at Turfway—nothing new, by the way—for a day designed to get the public involved in horse racing at a very critical time for the industry. The crowd on a chilly, rainy afternoon was good, probably about 3,500.

On hand were Bill and Susan Casner, who displayed their 2010 Kentucky Derby trophy in a tent adjacent the paddock. Casner, co-owner of WinStar Farm in Central Kentucky, credited trainer David England and Turfway management for putting together the fan appreciation program that placed an emphasis on getting families to the track.

“It’s going to require innovation and people thinking outside of the box,” said Bill Casner, who raced three horses on the Saturday program. “It will require the industry to come together and find new ways to reinvent itself. I also hope we get some recognition from our legislature, because it’s a stone cold fact Kentucky is losing its horse industry.”

Despite the industry mantra that a year-round racing circuit is critical to Kentucky, didn’t see anyone from the entities that own Turfway, didn’t see any racing commissioners, didn’t see industry leadership.

Just how important is this?

Granted, there’s a lot going on in Kentucky with the World Equestrian Games, the Secretariat movie, and other events. There’s also preparation for October and November racing at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, arguably the best in the state all year, and that’s not counting the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill.

These are all good, important things, but in two months, it will be a case of here and gone. Turfway will reopen for four months, and Kentucky racing most likely will be where it is now—going nowhere.

It was kind of laughable watching Lexington rush to make all those downtown improvements for the WEG visitors in town for only two weeks. What about the hundreds of thousands of people who live in the city and pay taxes year-round? Where are the priorities?

The superficiality is typical of Kentucky, and the horse industry isn’t immune. The real issues will be pooh-poohed for the next two months before reality sets in again. Then what?

Brass Hat can’t verbalize, but he really doesn’t have to. He can send the message loud and clear through his actions.

All he has to do is drop a pile of manure.


Leave a Comment:


What a horse!!!!

04 Oct 2010 1:34 PM

Brass Hat is certainly a grand old warrior! I would love to see him retire this fall. He has come back from more injuries than Wanderin' Boy! Brass Hat is all heart, always loved this horse!

04 Oct 2010 5:14 PM
Judy G ~ California

Retire him, please!!

04 Oct 2010 5:16 PM
Mike Relva

Thanks for the great article on Brass Hat. I have great respect for him, hope he's retired at the end of this year.

04 Oct 2010 5:32 PM

1. Brass Hat is a champ in his own right.

2. His trainer will do right by him.

3. Does anyone get the point of this blog post????

04 Oct 2010 5:39 PM

Bras hat is 9 years old he has nothing to prove and should be retired I hope his owner rewards him soon with a nice green pasture.

04 Oct 2010 5:50 PM

I must have missed the paragraph that mentioned Brass Hat's injury, or that he is soured on training or otherwise unhappy.

What is with all you supposed fans calling for the retirement of a horse that appears to be well taken care of and shows no signs of slowing down? Not all horses are the same, just because Brass Hat is 9 does not automatically mean he should be retired!

04 Oct 2010 6:17 PM

Brass Hat is a very nice horse. He deserves to be retired and not raced again. Hope that his trainer and owner are reading this blog!

04 Oct 2010 6:22 PM

Kentucky governor needs to do something to try to improve the racing industry before it dies. Not just at special events but all year-round. What's a horse racing state without races and nice tracks and races? My dream is to make it to Kentucky to visit tracks and farms to see the famous horses. I don't know when I will make it there but I sure hope there is something left for me to see besides pictures.

04 Oct 2010 6:35 PM

If Brass Hat's owner and trainer, who are father and son, did read this blog, they'd understand what it's really about. ... Enough of the retirement stuff. They'll do right by the horse, as they always have.

04 Oct 2010 6:35 PM

I forgot they should retire Brass Hat he has done all he needs to do. 9 years is enough.

04 Oct 2010 6:38 PM
Mike Relva


Brass Hat is still a good horse,but he HAS slowed down and he's nine,not five, hope he retires this year.

04 Oct 2010 7:04 PM

From the author: Hate to do this, but the party's over. This blog post is not about whether Brass Hat should be retired. Individuals who haven't spent every day with this horse have no business saying he should be retired. If you don't comment about the issue at hand--the sorry state of KY horse racing--your comments won't be posted. Enough is enough. This horse deserves better than this.

04 Oct 2010 7:10 PM

Oh if Brass Hat was running for office this november I would defineately give him a vote!!

I find this whole situation depressing...I attend the University of Kentucky and I'm majoring in Equine Management with the hopes of working in the thoroughbred industry. I came to UK because of the equine program and all the horse farms around Lexington. Not only are these ignorant politicians killing this industry but also the dreams of people like me who want to work in Kentucky in the future. I'm a Kentucky girl at heart and I will not have the dignity to move to another state!

There needs to be more public awareness about this desperate issue!! KEEP needs to step up and be heard!!

04 Oct 2010 7:18 PM
Karen Young

Did most of the comment writer not read the entire blog?? Yes, Brass Hat is a nice horse. No, he's not retiring - that's not what the blog said or even suggested.

The point is that Kentucky racing is going downhill fast, and legislators and others who are in a position to make changes do not appear to care. Yes, we'll inconvenience our general public to make sure things look nice for the visitors coming to the WEG. But should those visitors check back in a few months to see what Turfway Park is doing, what will they find?

Get a clue, get indignant, get angry! Yes, Brass Hat is a a very nice horse and a wonderful ambassador for an old campaigner who is well taken care of. Yes, the WEG is an honor for Kentucky and has truly brought some of the world's best and brightest equine stars to the Kentucky Horse Park. But when all our hard-knocking racing has gone to Indiana or West Virginia or Pennsylvania, will Kentucky still be known as the horse racing capital of the world? Will anyone care?

04 Oct 2010 7:41 PM

I love Brass Hat! I was at Brass Hat day in Frankfort and this horse is awsome. His trainer and owners are great people and they will do what is best for the horse. Brassy loves to run and tries all the time. He is a sweet horse that loves what he is doing. Poo on the people that don't know him and are judging him by his age.

04 Oct 2010 7:44 PM
James A. Jarrell

None of you state what the problem is in Kentucky. I assume it is money. I`m a gambler. I bet the horses to win only, as that's the only way I have learned to stay ahead. Perhaps if the state loweres the takeout and stopped the use of dope, we would bet more.

04 Oct 2010 7:54 PM
Bob Fritz

I always thought that Kentucky would be the last state standing if the industry went completely belly-up, but if they're being eclipsed by Indiana--which ran its first Thoroughbred race in 1995--I'm not so sure.

04 Oct 2010 8:11 PM
hillbilly hardboot

BH 'll make a good 10yo. Keep beating the drum, Tom...too much product, not enough buyers, somethings gotta give.....

04 Oct 2010 8:29 PM
Jason Shandler

Now you see what I have to deal with every day Tom. You wrote a very good article that was right on the money but all some people can talk about is the retirement of a horse they know nothing about. Brass Hat probably gets treated better than many children in this country. These people arent racing fans, they are animal rights activists. What a joke. They should go to the farm and pet all the pretty ponies to get their fill.

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence would undertand we need to pass the instant racing bill NOW or Kentucky will continue to suffer the consequences.

04 Oct 2010 9:07 PM
Ian Tapp

This blog and subsequent cries for retirement illustrate a broader point. When it comes to racing, there are too many people with give-up attitudes who are missing the point and dwelling on the wrong issues.

You green pasture zealots want to throw Brass Hat out with the bath water. This is equal to lawmakers' political posturing; buzzwords are safe words when you're unwilling or unable to think, say, or do anything of real value.

04 Oct 2010 9:26 PM

Oh, shucks...Brass Hat for president!!

04 Oct 2010 10:46 PM
Kelsey Riley


As Jason said, you're right on the money with this article. Thank you. This is the only way we have a chance at getting something done for the industry in Kentucky.

05 Oct 2010 2:22 AM
Patricia Diers

I love Brass Hat, I am hoping when he is retired, that the ownders consider Old Friends as his last home. A lot of us would get the opportunity to meet him. I have loved him for years and have one of his shoes mounted on my wall.

05 Oct 2010 7:03 AM

The comments by jshandler and ITapp are right on the money. How can we expect the horse racing Industry to revive when the prevailing attitude is that racing is animal abuse? We have heard these comments time and time again, "the best interest of the horse." "Don't run mares against colts because it will be another Ruffian or Eight Belles." These horses are breed to race, they are not pets, they are not cowponies, they won't be pulling ice wagons. They will be running, it is their purpose.

I am not advocating abusing animals but racing is not abuse. I am afraid that slots are not a long-term answer for this industry either. It is a source of revenue but I don't see how it will grow the fan base. Horse racing problem is it's too slow. 30-35 minutes between races is not going to fly in our instant gratification world.

Other than the TC and BC there is no rallying point. Superstars retire to the breeding shed after one year. There is no chance to build a fan base. Kentucky, New York and California racing are in serious trouble. Indiana, Louisiana and Pennsylvania racing are the current hot spots. Yes, the difference is slots, at the moment. But look at New Jersey to see the how quickly the situation can change.

The entire horseracing industry is going to need to change to survive. Events like the one at Turfway are a good idea, new efforts need to be put forth to attract new fans. Horsemen, gamblers, politicians all need to look at how this Sport of Kings can thrive in this era of no kings.    

05 Oct 2010 7:10 AM

Beshear spoke at the "Secretariat" premier in Lexington. He's a lot more concerned with helping himself get re-elected than helping the racing industry. The only thing he menioned was helping the film industry in Kentucky--at the Secretariat premier!!!

05 Oct 2010 7:43 AM

Say what you like about Beshear, but he has tried harder than any recent politician in KY to help racing. David Williams and the like have stonewalled his every effort.

For me...I have given up. Got rid of 6 winning horses 2 yrs ago because I was not going to torture myself or them racing through another Turfway winter for small purses. My good horses winter in LA and my mares are going to foal in IN this year.

As I see it...there isn't even any hope for KY racing on the horizon. Makes me sick, but very true.

05 Oct 2010 8:30 AM


05 Oct 2010 8:34 AM

Your point came through loud and clear---Kentucky's horse industry is dying---but then, I live in Kentucky and see it every day. Don't know how apparent it is elsewhere.

Apparently, our legislature thinks the horse industry will never leave, no matter how poorly it is treated (after all, it's just a lot of rich folks, isn't it, and they can take the hit?). By the time they realize they're wrong, it may be too late.

What the pols are going to do to find jobs for all the people who aren't rich, but make their living in the horse industry, will be another year's crisis. And they'll all look so surprised...

All that said, those who point to the governor as part of the problem are being shortsighted. He may not be doing enough, but he has tried to make improvements, only to be stopped by the legislature and the man who is his opponent. Not wonderful choices in the race for governor, but I know which mine will be.

Well said, Tom.

05 Oct 2010 9:26 AM

What is all this with Brass Hat should be retired... get off it!! Unless you've spent time with a racehorse as a groom or caretaker you have no business making a comment like that. Some of these horses thrive on being able to run and train, it's not about winning it's about being useful. What is so great about standing in a  same paddock day in day out? As humans we find it acceptible to work until 62 and then what? How many people do you know who are financially able to retire and don't? As long as Brass Hat is physically and mentally able, let him run. HE will tell BUFF who knows him best when it's time to quit. Some people complain because horses only race one year and now look at you, here is a true racehorse that shows up and runs, has connections that allow him to run and lets the fans appreciate him instead of calling in quits in their prime because of a second-place finish. Be grateful for trainers like Buff and horses like Brass Hat, the industry could use a lot more of em...which is what this blog is about... rejuvinating the industry. Slots will help but won't solve. It's up to the owners to race and breed, the trainers to train with integrity and racetracks to supply a venue that people want to see. If you want families to come, create some entertainment for the kids who are happy to watch one race and then find a way to burn some energy. Everyone wants slots, you could at least put an arcade in for the kids, how hard would that be? And maybe a fun park for the smaller ones? Kids don't gamble and they don't care about handicapping or watching a horse unless it's someone special. If the kid's aren't happy, the parents are taking them home. No one wants to deal with a bored or unhappy child in public. As for those without kids, you have to have quality horses or some other event to keep the adults entertained. Churchill has the right idea with the social aspect... there are endless ideas, and yes getting the legislature to reduce their take for a specified period might just give the tracks the resources to actually DO something. The fans only contribute when there is a place to do so and that sits squarely on the racetrack owners.

05 Oct 2010 12:17 PM


Brass Hat's way too honest for a political career, as are all animals!

05 Oct 2010 12:17 PM
Buff Bradley, family, fans, and employees


Thanks for a great article. Sadly racing in the state of KY has gone the wrong way and is almost unaffordable for all. I do not believe that you had a true racehorse fan base on this blog as they did miss the point.

And just for the true racehorse fans, Brass Hat is doing wonderful and couldn't be in better shape while still enjoying what he does everyday. The first thing Calvin Borel told me after finishing a work on Brass Hat last Wednesday was that "he loves what he is doing and he is happy." The next statement was that "he felt great." I immediately called my father (owner) and relayed the message.

When Brass is retired he will live on our family farm as that is his birthplace and home, and most importantly he is our family! Fans will be allowed to visit him as long as they bring apples or peppermints for him. Although opinions are welcome as we honor the freedom of speech, it disturbs me that some people who are obviously not involved in our industry can't comprehend the care and love that we give these animals every single day.


Buff Bradley

05 Oct 2010 12:52 PM

The thought of the Kentucky Derby at Indiana Downs with the horses parading to the post while Phil Harris sings "Back Home in Indiana" is too traumatic to consider.

05 Oct 2010 1:55 PM
Billy's Empire

Great post Mr. Bradley. I wish Brass Hat and yourself nothing but the best!

05 Oct 2010 2:24 PM
Billy's Empire

About KEEP

The Kentucky Equine Education Project is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to promote and protect Kentucky's horse industry. KEEP is a self-funded organization, meaning we receive no public funds or grants. Our operating funds come from the horse industry and horse industry supporters that we represent. To learn more about how you can become a member or make a donation, please visit www.horseswork.com.

05 Oct 2010 2:31 PM

Mr Bradley, Great post! Those of us who know better, know Brassy has the best of care and loves what he is doing.

05 Oct 2010 3:16 PM

Well said. I always did think most politicians (on our side of the border too!) are full of manure! Maybe Brass Hat could run for office. I'm sure he could do a better job for racing than the two-legged guys are doing. At least he has a good grasp of the problems!

This is my sport - the delight of my life for over half a century - and it breaks my heart to see it tossed aside as insignificant in favor of activities based on non-living things.Ever see anyone declaring a poker hand a hero?

05 Oct 2010 3:22 PM

Brass Hat retire? Not as long as he loves what he's doing and is sound. But all this rush to retire oldies parallels the rush among the young to put us human oldies "out to pasture." Kinda suggests that maybe they realize they might not be able to compete with us!

If you lived here, you would see how many NON-oldies put to full use the social services network and use the most ridiculous "unsoundnesses" to justify putting themselves out to pasture. We oldies, unsound or not, generally work as long as we can and do energetic things even after retirement.

Long live the Brass Hats of the world! Those heroes are the ones who bring us back to the track day after day, the ones who've been around long enough for fans to fall in love with them. As for cruelty, what do you expect when so many people today seem to think being expected to get jobs and support themselves are human cruelty! Go Brass go!

05 Oct 2010 3:37 PM
The_Knight_Sky racing

James A. Jarrell wrote:

Perhaps if the state lowers the takeout and stopped the use of dope, we would bet more.


And if the racetracks ditch the phony racing surfaces and get out of the casino business. Well that would certainly help.

These leaders should not be reminded that they are primarily in the horse racing business.

The 50 and 60 year olds who have supported horse racing at the windows won't be around in 10 years.

Who is going to pick up the tab for horse racing then? Rolling Stones fans?

05 Oct 2010 4:04 PM

Remember, age and treachery always overcome youth and skill!

05 Oct 2010 4:37 PM

Racing needs to be more fan friendly. On a recent visit to Turfway Park, during a nice fall day, I went to purchase a small soft drink. I was shocked when I saw the small size of the cup! It was nothing more than a dixie cup with a Pepsi logo on it. Add ice, and there was barely enough liquid for one swallow. The final shocker was the price! $1.50! That is a slap in the face to the very gamblers you're trying to lure.

05 Oct 2010 4:45 PM

Great article Tom, I would love to see a deeper discussion of the real problems in horse racing. Racing itself isn't torture, and in fact most of these horses, given the opportunity, will race one another in the paddock. The issues, at least in my opinion, are drug use, track surfaces, and large fields in certain races (KD). Drug use is the worst, IMO, because it not only endangers horses, it is a lie to bettors, buyers, and breeders.

05 Oct 2010 6:22 PM


06 Oct 2010 12:27 AM

please pay attention to the comments of TOM C., I live in CALIFORNIA and horse-racing out here is DEAD! RACETRACKS,OWNERs,and POLITICIANS(lets not forget the CALIFORNIA HORSE RACING BOARD)have destroyed horseracing!they have raised TAKEOUT through the roof,refused to make the "CHEMICAL TRAINERS"leave...why I don't know...shot themselves in the foot(or pocketbook)with unbettable 5&6 horse fields,GOUGED the PUBLIC to walk through the doors,buy food and drinks,and park.What they have done is make CALIFORNIA RACING a DEAD UNIT...KENTUCKY still has a chance to survive but they(the one's in charge)are doing exactly what CALIFORNIAS BRAINTRUST(fill in your joke here...)have been doing for years...this is a warning KENTUCKY will be next if they don't change their path quickly...DON'T SAY YOU WERE'NT WARNED!

06 Oct 2010 6:27 PM

Amen, Buff Bradley! Great Post... Thank you so much for saying the things you did, you saved me a few minutes posting a lengthy response!

06 Oct 2010 10:47 PM
Mike Relva


Really? You probably would like to see horses race until they are twenty!

07 Oct 2010 12:37 PM
needler in Virginia

GOOD GRIEF!!! GET A GRIP!! Unless all my years in education are wasted, the point of the article is that Brass Hat speaks more eloquently with his pile of poop than do the "caretakers" of Kentucky and its' interests.  AND to those "caretakers" (of their OWN interests) I say the following..... importance of order not relevant:

1) It is the KENTUCKY Derby, NOT the wandering-around-looking-for-a-permanent-home Derby. The race has been around long enough that even the thickest of politicians ought to know where the race is run...........errrmmmm, Louisville? That's still in Kentucky, right?

2) You eejits in Frankfort ("caretakers" of the public interest, NOT residents of said city) put a ....wait for it....... HORSE on your damned state quarter, or is it supposed to be a chicken??

3) You have a state park called ......wait for it ....the Kentucky HORSE Park. YE GODS!! Imagine that??

4) Yeah, yeah, yeah about the Bourbon Trail, but what do MOST of the tourists come to see? Umm, horses, racing, foals, farms, retired champions?? Nope, probably the chicken houses.

5) And not to put too fine a point on it, Kentucky used to be known as the Bluegrass State, NOT the "I have no idea WHO we are" state.

Nope, Tom got it right. Brass Hat is far smarter than the elected officials, and he speaks his mind. How about cleaning out his horse trailer on the steps of the state capitol? The horse industry in Kentucky is as much the state as it is a state of mind. The thousands of racetrack workers, farm workers, owners, trainers, breeders (large AND small) in Kentucky have given their lives to the horse. When the hell will the legislature get THAT message? Maybe when Brass Hat walks into the chambers and leaves a load for them........nah, they'll never get it.

OK, snarky rant over.

Cheers and safe trips.

07 Oct 2010 1:19 PM

It's so sad to see the "leaders" of my native state, a state about whose dominance in the thoroughbred industry I have always been proud, effectively turn their backs on the sport and its employees.  Come on, get a clue, and take action!

Great pic of Brass Hat, too.  :-)

07 Oct 2010 2:18 PM
Tricia Smarty

Thanks Buff and family for weighing in, I luv BRASS HAT and I know you would never do anything that is not in his best interest.  And I love the fact that he is now primarily a turf horse, which I think was proven when he ran at PM earlier this year.  And that picture of him is absolutely fantastic.  I wish Lava Man was still in training as he reminds me of lot of Brass Hat - he loved his job.  Good luck to Kentucky racing, the answers have to be found.  

07 Oct 2010 4:04 PM

needler in Virginia - I loved this! I think we must have the same sense of humor (or the same kinda sarcastic disposition?). That was a really cool post.

07 Oct 2010 8:56 PM

It's the basic tenet of supply and demand. WAY too much supply and not enough demand. I don't think widespread year round racing is a good thing in any jurisdiction, but people gotta survive. I'd like to see Brass Hat take a chunk outta one of those gladhanders...the visual is incredibly fun.

08 Oct 2010 11:10 AM
Billy's Empire

brass hat to race in the Sycamore!

ITAPP will know more about racing than you will ever dream Relva.

Thanks Tom

08 Oct 2010 11:46 AM

First off, thanks to Mr. Bradley and several others for making intelligent, informative comments. There are so many trainers out there who seem to have no idea that racing fans and the racing media even exist. It's nice to get some first-hand commentary from a person connected with a horse that symbolizes the GOOD things in this sport.  

Second of all, some of the responses from the readers highlight exactly what is WRONG with racing-- the mentality that finishing fifth (or even second) is the end of the world, the mentality that languishing out in a pasture or breeding 450 mares a year is better than running, and the mentality that you shouldn't be expected to pay for anything when you go to the track. I've been to Belmont, Aqueduct, Saratoga, Monmouth, and the Meadowlands, and each time I've been happy to pay for admission (which is FAR cheaper than what you would pay to enter a football stadium or a soccer field), buy a program, and make a few bets.  

There is a severe dichotomy in horse racing that somehow needs to be bridged. On one hand, there are the people who follow racing strictly for the animals, which is great, because I follow it mainly for the horses too. I love the horses. But then again, this sport also relies on MONEY, FUNDING, PURSES, and REVENUE to keep going. So that's why we also need to lure in fans who are interested in gambling. Like it or not, wagering on the races supplements the purses, covers operating costs, etc. If people didn't gamble on the races, you all would be paying $25 for admission and $18 for a Post Parade magazine.

So next time you're at the track, think about putting down a $5 show bet, or try a few dime superfectas. That is a sure way to support the sport you love.

08 Oct 2010 2:09 PM
needler in Virginia

Convene, thanks for the kind words, but if you can't be sarcastic and smile a bit, you just have to cry. To see the home of Thoroughbred racing get such short shrift (try saying THAT 3 times quickly) just breaks my heart. The legislators obviously don't get it, but then when have they??? It's clear they have no clue about the sheer numbers of the folks who hotwalk, pick stalls, pick feet, bathe, groom, feed, train racehorses, train show horses, deliver foals, exercise horses, vet horses, ride horses for a living, get horses into starting gates, sell tickets at betting windows, clean up after racegoers, prepare coffee for sleepy track workers, and the list goes on and on and on and on. Do they really believe the chicken industry is how Kentucky will be famous? Does the Bluegrass state now become the Roost State? BLAH! That just doesn't have the same charm, does it? Don't know about YOU, Convene, but there's NO WAY I drive six hours to see chickens! And before everyone comes down on my head for insulting chickens, I have had chickens and still have horses; of the two?? Gimme a horse EVERY time!

Cheers and safe trips.

08 Oct 2010 3:36 PM

This one started out on the wrong foot, so to speak, but the feedback since has made it one of the best. Thanks for looking at the situation and writing down your thoughts.

08 Oct 2010 4:24 PM
Ian Tapp

Mike Relva,

Keep it real, Mike. The debate isn't about when racehorses should retire. Let the horsemen decide. It's too easy for fans to sit at home and say "He retired too soon" or "Retire him, please!!" How ridiculous. When you buy a racehorse, then you'll be able to call the shots, and I'm guessing you'll love it when the misinformed fan blogosphere critiques your every move!


08 Oct 2010 9:31 PM

Great post Mr. Bradley!

Great article Tom L!

It is refreshing to see a writer call it as it is, and an owner/trainer team that continues to "get it" and "get it right" when it comes to managing and caring for these amazing gifts that are the thoroughbreds. Brass Hat is an example proving, albeit with a little luck, that a productive career ON THE TRACK is possible far beyond their sophomore year. Knowing when to run them, when not to run them and when to turn them out for a break is a skill needed by far more shed row staffers than we have at this time.

As for the Kentucky politicians' continued failures in promoting and preserving the very industry that supports the state in various forms by providing jobs and revenue that stretch far beyond the gates of Kentucky's tracks, they should be embarrassed to claim Kentucky as their constituency. Generations of families have put food on their tables in that state because of the work that racing, breeding and farming have created. Knowing this, how can they allow this industry to continue to die a slow death?

Low purses caused by the loss of interest in the sport and unfavorable tax breaks are destined to kill it one day, but the politicians are certain that it won't die on their watch, so they do nothing.

This problem is a nationwide issue that must be corrected. Some states are doing a better job than others.

Perhaps it will take the Kentucky Derby moving to Indiana to get someone's attention. Perhaps that would not be such a bad thing. If tradition truly mattered, these officials would get behind the other gaming issues on the table that could provide a light in a very dark tunnel.


09 Oct 2010 4:04 PM
Aleine in VA

Um...just a thought here. Could the exodus of the horse racing industry out of Ky indicate that OTHER states may become the "New Ky?"  If so...then o.k. Hey...I remember my Dad telling me what a great state for the horse industry his native Maryland used to be.

He was very proud of Maryland racing. So....is this just progress? And a step into the 21st century? Many more people in states other than Ky trying to throw their hats into the horse racing ring??

Frankly, and ..if I had big bucks at hand....I would try to grow a Ky Derby winning horse right here in VA.....oh yeah...another great horse industry state of yesteryear.

10 Oct 2010 2:34 AM

TO BRING IN A NEXT GENERATION OF RACING FANS: Why doesn't Churchill Downs let anyone, even for a fee, come watch morning workouts?? Is this true of other tracks in KY? My 24 yr. old daughter and a gang of her friends were there for WEG, she talked them into driving up to Louisville to Churchill for morning works as we have done at other tracks around the u.s. for so many years. They wouldn't let them in unless they had a trainers license! And they were very rude to the entire group of 20 somethings. Great way to entice a new generation. I read about Turfway's promotional idea, thought it was GREAT and that all tracks should follow suit, then heard what happened at Churchill, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID. I hope this isn't true at other tracks as well, I've never had a problem anywhere else.

10 Oct 2010 12:15 PM
Aleine in VA


"Loss of interest in the sport" has to do with the dumbing down of America. Too many kids born in the 80s (and don't tell me you don't see this at every turn), who were electronically babysat or lugged around Cabbage Patch dolls are the mindless adults of today: Maybe it was the weird clothing style of the 80s?

When I go to the local track it is to study the horses in person once I've read the program. For the big races I've learned the horses' names and track records all year as well as the 2-year-olds' talents, for Derby hopefuls. All of this takes time and the ability to turn off the t.v. and learn about the horses out there every year.

Whatever distracts the public at large, it ain't good. Maybe Nascar fans have outnumbered the horse racing fans (they don't usually like both cars and horses). The collective attention span of Americans today consists of who knows what. The public at large has also forgotten that the equine athletes on the tracks ARE athletes just like their pro football teams and the like.

It wouldn't hurt to see kids at the track who are genuinely being schooled by their parents rather than sent over to the moon bounce or face painting booth. What's THAT all about? My Dad must be turning over in his grave right about now.

Tipsy the clown at the track?! Moon bounces and carnival attractions?! What a sacrilege.

10 Oct 2010 1:59 PM
Mike Relva


I've as much right to an opinion as you, it's called democracy!

10 Oct 2010 5:25 PM

donkeyhotey: That is not the case at other tracks in KY. U can watch workouts from the apron at Keeneland and Turfway for sure.

10 Oct 2010 5:31 PM

thanks for the info tlamarra! i am planning my dream trip to KY next year to see stallions and racing, and morning workouts have always been a part of my ritual. wonder why churchill doesn't follow suit, weird. thanks again~

11 Oct 2010 3:29 AM

I have enjoyed watching Brass Hat run! He is a champion of the hard working unsung heros of racing. He should be retired when the handlers and his trainer and owner determine it is time. He could have a second career like several of the great geldings as a lead pony. I have watched racing decline in Nebraska the last 10 years, our old Aksarben race track, where Jack Van Berg won 4000-5000 races is now a shopping center and some college dorms. The legislators in our state and the public that didn't fight for tax breaks let this happen. Speak up for Kentucky!

11 Oct 2010 10:13 AM
My Take

What's worse, is it's such a slow, grinding, deliberate kind of death. New York, Maryland, California and the Motherland. Each degrading an inch a day. Everyday.

Turf writers, bloggers, internet junkies, everywhere you read, for several years now, talking about the decline of an industry that once was at the apex of all of sport.

It's maddening and horrifying and the most disgusting part is how slow it is dying.

The Lord knows I love horses and this once great sport, but I am at the point of saying KILL IT ALREADY (so I can move on), or rivive it to it's former glory. This digging a grave an inch a day is just too damn much. It's become a sport of "Woe's Me" from the top down and it's becoming unbearable.

11 Oct 2010 5:19 PM

re: KY Thoroughbred Industry

How about the next time these legislators want tickets to the Derby, Bluegrass Stakes, etc., they are denied unless they have voted for racetrack slots?

Let's not reward ignorance.I know that's foreign to Kentuckians, but it's time.

12 Oct 2010 3:23 PM
Bet Twice

Thanks to Brass Hat and his connections for taking part in the Turfway promotion. As a racing fan, I really appreciate the opportunities to see and interact with my favorite racing stars. I can't commend them enough for keeping him happy and racing at age 9.  

As a fan, I really appreciate these types of events and all the increased publicity surrounding Rachel Alexandra last year and Zenyatta this year. It's really fun to see videos of them working or eating a carrot or goofing off with photographers. I know creating stars isn't going to help the gamblers or the owners/trainers who are trying to make a living, but I think the publicity surrounding Zen (and Rachel last year) really helped to create new fans of the sport. Hopefully more fans, means more money - which is good for everyone.

I hope the success of some of these older horses, will encourage more owners/trainers to keep their stars racing. Racing Zenyatta at 6 really breathed new life into the nearly moribund California racing scene. Seeing the fans turn out and cheer her on has been really remarkable. The horses are the stars of horse racing and the sport needs to do a better job showcasing them and making them accessible to the racing fans who support them.

12 Oct 2010 7:27 PM
Russell maiers

Brass Hat is a really good race horse and you are right, he is what horse racing should be all about.

I hope this is his last fall racing and he gets a great retirement.

12 Oct 2010 10:56 PM

Tom best article yet IMO. spot on about racing in ky. great write up man.

13 Oct 2010 8:16 AM

I see that Brass Hat worked a 5 furlong bullet at Keeneland this morning (fastest of 45). Isn't it time he were retired?

Just kidding, keep up the good fight. Maybe someday Turfway will again attract a horse of Brass Hat's stature to run, and not just to visit.

15 Oct 2010 3:20 PM
Larry S. Easton, PA

I have had the honor to meet Brass Hat and talk with Buff Bradley. I'm a 40+ year horse player and fan. I've seen them all. Brass Hat is my all time favorite. What he has overcome to accomplish in his career is incredible. I have the utmost respect for Buff and Fred Bradley. They will NEVER do anything that is not in the best interest of Brass Hat. He's a happy thoroughbred race horse, I'm certain. A champion, who wants to run. When he tells them otherwise, they will know. Go get 'em Brassie.

15 Oct 2010 11:29 PM
Bob Brown

Truly it is a tragedy that trainers like Buff, owners like Fred and the many lives and jobs they and others like them support, are run out of the state by the sanctimonious legislators who turn a blind eye to a premier industry that brings acclaim and respect to Kentucky and sustenance to its people.

Having watched Brass Hat in sickness and in health I think he is in his prime. At some later point, like the Roman emperor Caligula's favorite horse Incitatus, he should be appointed to the senate.

21 Oct 2010 12:23 PM

Old Brass Hat goes today in The Sycamore against two other old timers, Presious Passion and Musketier. Three good old boys going a mile and one half. It doesn't get any better! Good Luck Brass Hat!

21 Oct 2010 1:01 PM
Jeffrey lopez

Hope you guys caught the 8th race at keeneland today. If not Brass Hat spanked the field!!!!!

21 Oct 2010 5:16 PM
Gate to Wire

I hope all of you fools that posted on here saying that Brass Hat should be retired saw him win the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes today at Keeneland.

He looked great and showed no sign of needing retirement.

It's a good idea to leave the training to real trainers who have spent their lives working with horses.

These horses are bred and born to run. They are not china dolls who should be retired every time they don't win.

It's this attitude that has robbed us of too many horses the last 10 years.

I hope Jess Jackson watched Brassie win today. Rachel should still be racing too!!!!

Go Get Em Brassie!!!!

I hope you last another few years

21 Oct 2010 5:18 PM
Jeffrey lopez

Also for anyone who has birds I hear bloodhorse magazine is the best for birdcage lining. Nothing against the great magazine Bloodhorse..... It's just unmatched in it's ability to absorb feces.

21 Oct 2010 5:22 PM
needler in Virginia

Okey dokey, folks..........anyone out there think Brass Hat should be retired NOW??????? Well, if you still do, then you can put his Sycamore win in your pipe and smoke it.........'cause what you've been smokin' hasn't really worked, has it?

Cheers and safe trips.

21 Oct 2010 6:35 PM
Soldier Course

I was thrilled to have the honor of seeing Brass Hat win the Sycamore Stakes last week at Keeneland, with my friend from Sycamore, SC.

28 Oct 2010 1:48 PM
Pedigree Ann

I was sure Brass Hat was going to be the next John Henry. He blasted the Eastern 'glamour' colts in the Ohio and Indiana Derbies, and when he came back from his first injury, galloped away with the Donn H.

But after the second serious injury, he wasn't the same Brass Hat. Yes, he won the Mass Cap and set a track record at CD for 1 1/16, but the world-class brilliance was gone. But he still has the desire and will to race and shouldn't be denied if he is well enough.

I have been going to the Rolex 3-day at the Horse Park since it started having it in the 1970s. Those horses go blasting across country for miles, jumping enormous fences, and have to be fit enough to jump big stadium jumps the next day. The typical ages for eventers is 10-12, and some of the world championship competitors were in their middle 'teens, and the best have significant TB in their pedigrees or are full TBs. As TBs mature, they may lose the 2yo sprinter speed, but they often gain in stamina.

29 Oct 2010 11:05 AM

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