The $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap returns for the first time since 2004 this Saturday at Suffolk Downs. Because the 1 1/8-mile race was shelved the last two years, it is now ungraded, but it is still expected to draw Brass Hat and Evening Attire, two Grade 1 winners - albeit several years removed from their biggest victories - when entries are drawn Wednesday.
"The timing is good and the purse is very good for us," said William "Buff" Bradley, trainer of Brass Hat, who won the 2006 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. "Lots of people have told me the track has always been safe, and the race fits him. And frankly we don't have to face Lawyer Ron or the big 3-year-olds."
Brass Hat finished well behind Lawyer Ron in both the Whitney Handicap and Woodward at Saratoga, but Bradley says the 6-year-old "never handled the track" while he was there. This year's campaign is the second time Brass Hat has returned from lengthy layoffs due to leg injuries. He set a track record after a 13-month break in July in an allowance race at Churchill Downs over eventual Pacific Classic winner Student Council.
Evening Attire has raced in the last two Massachusetts Handicaps, finishing second behind Macho Uno in 2002 and fourth behind Offlee Wild in 2004 for his locally based co-owners, Joe and Mary Grant. The 9-year-old is a Grade 1 winner, having won the 2002 Jockey Club Gold Cup. He won the Stymie Handicap at Aqueduct in March but has finished third or fourth in his seven starts since.
"He's easy to figure out," said trainer Pat Kelly, whose father, Thomas Kelly, co-owns along with the Grants. "That's why he's still around. He's a character, and he likes to try every time. God love him that he's able to still compete in races like this."
Brass Hat is the expected starting highweight at 116 pounds. Other probable starters include Dr. Pleasure, trained by John Ward, and Fairbanks, from Todd Pletcher's barn. Possible entrants include Brother Bobby, Barcola, Awesome Twist, Palladio, Praying for Cash, Who What Win, and runners from the barns of Nick Zito and Neil Howard.