Turfway Park | Posted 9/11/2009, 5:10 pm

Bradley heads for richer land

By Marty McGee

Buff Bradley has been a staunch supporter of Kentucky racing ever since he resigned as the late Clarence Picou's assistant to open his own public stable in 1993. In the years to follow, not only have the vast majority of Bradley's starters come at Kentucky tracks, but he has served on various horsemen's boards and given generously of his time in supporting industry causes.

This winter, however, Bradley will be leaving with his most of his horses. He intends to apply for stalls in south Florida, deeply discouraged by the weakened purse structure at his longtime home track, Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.

"I'm not sure how many I'll be taking to Florida, and I may leave a few behind to run here," said Bradley, 46. "The thing is, we need year-round racing in Kentucky, and something has to change."

Industry proponents have been clamoring for years for legislative relief in the form of alternative gaming at state racetracks. Until such change occurs, the exodus continues, particularly from Turfway, which currently is conducting a 22-day fall meet and hosts the majority of its dates during a four-month winter stretch (December through March). Purse levels have fallen at Turfway in recent years while tracks in other slots-fueled states such as Indiana, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have boosted theirs.

Bradley said he is trying to upgrade the quality of his stable and that, unfortunately, winter racing at Turfway does not meet his requirements.

Bradley, who lives in Frankfort, Ky., with his wife, Kim, and three children, was the leading trainer with 11 wins at the recently concluded meet at Ellis Park. He is best known for his work with Brass Hat, the $2 million earner bred and owned by his father, Fred Bradley.

Bradley said being away from his family for lengthy periods of time is particularly hard. "It's the reality of our current situation," he said. "I think we can now see that people are leaving and not coming back. It is going to hurt racing at every track that is still here."

Bradley will become the latest trainer who traditionally has operated a sizable stable year-round in Kentucky but will be taking his best horses elsewhere for the winter. Others who have de-emphasized Turfway after experiencing considerable success there for years include Greg Foley, Bernie Flint, Dale Romans, Paul McGee, and Vickie Foley.