After finishing fifth behind Curlin in the Stephen Foster last June, Brass Hat returned from a work with a minor injury, and trainer William “Buff” Bradley elected to turn a few weeks’ recovery into an extended vacation.
While Brass Hat has won racing close up, he usually unwinds a closing drive. In 26 career starts he has made only three starts at distances shorter than 1 1/16 miles and has never won at the Dust Commander’s distance of one mile. He nevertheless is the class of the Dust Commander’s field of 10, with $1.79 million earned in some of racing’s top events, and has been training steadily at Turfway for his return. Bill Troilo will ride.
Competition is likely to come from Canela, who also thrives at long distances. Two starts back he won the 1 1/8 mile Prairie Bayou at Turfway in December and in his last start was a far-back third in the 1 5/8 mile Gallant Fox Handicap at Aqueduct. In 44 career starts he has 16 wins, 7 seconds, and 5 thirds, and he is 3-3-1 in eight starts at a mile. Leading rider Victor Lebron will be aboard for leading trainer Mike Maker.
Maker also sends out Officer Rocket, with Orlando Mojica to ride. Officer Rocket has been sprinting of late, including a win in the Holiday Cheer Stakes at Turfway in December, but he also owns a win and two other in-the-money finishes in five tries at a mile. He posted a best-of-12, four-furlong work at Turfway on Monday. To his advantage is the ability to race just off the pace or farther back; to his disadvantage in the Dust Commander is the far outside post.
Also entered for the Dust Commander are Your Round (jockey Leandro Gonçalves); Cabazon (Fernando De La Cruz); Barastraight (GB) (Inosencio Diego); Matty’s Trail (Otto Thorwarth); Hapaheart (Pablo Tolentino); Timeless Fashion (Hector Rosario); and Wait On Tate (Eddie Zuniga).
The Dust Commander is the 11th of 12 races on the card. Post time Saturday is 1:10pm.