Buff Bradley, Local Hall of Famer

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Buff Bradley and Brass Hat | Coady

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On the same day it was announced trainer Todd Pletcher had so deservedly been chosen as a member of racing's Hall of Fame, another conditioner confirmed to Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee that he was retiring at the conclusion of the Churchill Downs meeting next month.

This was the first year Pletcher was eligible and the announcement certainly came as a surprise to no one.

Pletcher is one of the most successful trainers of all time, having won more than 5,000 races and holding the earnings record (increasing every day) of more than $405 million.

Last Friday, he sent out Malathaat to win the grade I Kentucky Oaks, his fourth victory in that race. He has won the grade I Kentucky Derby twice and saddled the winners of 11 Breeders' Cup races.

Pletcher has trained 11 champions, won 166 grade I races and been the leader at the conclusion of 60 race meetings at various racetracks.

The 53-year-old has been voted the Eclipse Award as the sport's leading trainer seven times: 2004-07, 2010, 2013 and 2014.

Buff Bradley, on the other hand, will never be nominated for the Hall of Fame, located in the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, NY. But if his hometown of Frankfort, Ky, of which I am a native and resident, had a Hall of Fame, his inclusion would be a no-brainer.

Located between Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky's capital city is full of racing fans and, like many of the state's towns, after horses and bourbon, well, what else really matters.

Buff Bradley and I both grew up in Frankfort the sons of prominent attorneys who also had a penchant for politics.

My father, Herb Liebman, was in law school at the University of Kentucky when he met Fred Bradley, then an undergraduate student. They became close friends and would remain so for more than half a century. Fred Bradley and I had something in common, both of us earning our degrees in journalism.

Bradley took a short detour before law school. Having graduated from UK with designation as a Distinguished Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corp graduate, he headed off for military service before returning to UK to attend law school. Following active duty, he would spend 30 years in the Air National Guard, retiring as Gen. Bradley.

My dad was a police court judge, served four terms on the county school board, and worked tirelessly in state and local political races.

Bradley served as Franklin County Judge and for 18 years was a Kentucky State Senator. We joked about how he owned a small trucking company named “Fred's Fast Freight.”

Above all else, however, Fred Bradley loved his farm and his Thoroughbred horses. He bred on a small scale, never spending much on stud fees and foaling the mares himself.

That is until he had children and they could help with the farm chores.

Some wondered if young Buff Bradley could really train horses or if his father simply wanted him to head in that direction when he took out his license in 1993. Those who knew the family were not surprised when Buff quickly silenced the naysayers.

Many winners came over the years but in June, 2004 the first “big” score occurred, when homebred Brass Hat (Prized) took the Grade II Ohio Derby.

Brass Hat would become the family's first grade I winner when he won the 2006 Donn H. The gelding retired to live out his days at the Bradley's Indian Ridge Farm near Frankfort with 10 wins (nine stakes) in 40 starts, two track records, and $2,713,561 in earnings.

One of the proudest moments of my life was during Derby week 2010, when the city of Frankfort asked me to serve as emcee for Brass Hat Day. Fred Bradley was beaming, as he should have been. Brass Hat was there, too.

The very next year, the Bradley's newest star hit the racetrack. Groupie Doll (Bowman's Band), bred by Buff and Fred, was the champion sprinter in 2012 and 2013, years in which she won the grade I Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. For the father/son and longtime partners Carl Hurst and Brent Burns, she retired with 12 wins in 23 starts, two track records, and earnings of $2,648,850.

With Fred in failing health but seated on a bench outside the Keeneland sale pavilion, Groupie Doll was sold at the 2013 November sale for $3.1 million.

Proving he could win at the top level with a horse not bred by his family and raised at their farm, Buff guided Gunpower Farm's Divisidero (Kitten's Joy) to wins on three Kentucky Derby undercards. He won the grade II American Turf in 2015 and the next two years scored in the grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.

And who could forget possibly Buff's favorite horse, The Player (by Street Hero), who in 2018 won the GIII Mineshaft S. and subsequently broke both sesamoids in the New Orleans Handicap. The Player, bred by Fred and Buff Bradley and Hurst, had also destroyed his suspensory apparatus. But because of the love between Buff and The Player, the trainer went to extreme lengths to save the horse nicknamed “Angus.”

Fred Bradley was 85 when he died May 20, 2016. He was happiest spending a sultry summer day not at Saratoga but at the “Pea Patch”–Ellis Park. He had 60 years of The Blood-Horse stacked on shelves in the upstairs of his home.

Buff Bradley's world changed when his father died. But with 575 wins to his credit and the aforementioned stars in the stable, he achieved much on the racetrack.

Now, because of various reasons, he has decided to call it a career.

At only 57, Bradley plans to remain a small owner and breeder and perhaps find someone willing to give him a job at a racetrack or within an industry organization.

To those in Frankfort, Ky., he doesn't have to achieve anything else. He's a Hall of Famer.

 

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