Fred Bradley, the longtime Frankfort-based owner and breeder of such standouts as champion Groupie Doll and Grade I winner Brass Hat, passed away Friday in Wilmore at the age of 85. Bradley had been in declining health in recent years.
Born in Providence, Ky, Bradley was the father of Churchill Downs-based trainer William “Buff” Bradley and led a life that defined what it meant to be a multihyphenate. He was a decorated Air Force general, an attorney, a state senator and even a stock car driver, but it was the title of horseman that most consistently defined Bradley at every stage of his life.
At age 8, weekly visits with his father to the former Dade Park, now Ellis Park, first fostered Fred Bradley’s devotion to the Thoroughbred racing. He obtained the property that would be his Indian Ridge Farm in 1967 and set about making the operation not only his family’s home but their lifeblood.
“Going to Dade Park every day, I learned to appreciate horses there,” Fred Bradley said in an interview the Herald-Leader in 2012. “I bought my first mule when I was 10 years old out of a mine. I bought him for $3 and broke him to ride, sold him for $5 and said, ‘My God, this is a way to make money. I can stand this life.’ And that's what I did.”
After years of working on the family’s farm, Buff Bradley took out his trainer’s license in 1993 and counted his father as his biggest client until his health issues in recent years led to a reduction in his stock. They first struck gold when their gelding Brass Hat – who was out of the mare, Brassy, that Fred Bradley had purchased for $5,000 - captured the Grade I Donn Handicap in 2006 and would become one of the sentimental favorites in Thoroughbred racing for years to come.
Over seven seasons of racing, Brass Hat would win 10 of 40 career starts with earnings of $2,173,561. The Bradleys thought the Prized gelding was their horse of a lifetime, only to be taken to greater heights by a chestnut filly who made her career debut just months after Brass Hat retired at age 10.
Bred by the father-son team, Groupie Doll would develop into one of the elite female sprinters of the last couple decades. The daughter of Bowman’s Band captured back-to-back editions of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in 2012-2013 and was honored with the Eclipse Award for champion female sprinter in each of those years.
In one of the more emotional moments at public auction, the Bradleys and their partners sold Groupie Doll to Mandy Pope for $3.1 million at the 2013 Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale with Buff Bradley staying on to train the filly for two more races before she retired with 12 wins from 23 starts and $2,648,850 in earnings.
“Doing this with my father has been very special because we've worked on that farm for many years,” Buff Bradley after Groupie Doll was sold. “He could have walked away at many points, but he loved it so much. The last several years he’s been able to reap the rewards for that.”
Visitation for Fred Bradley will take place on Tuesday from 4-8p.m. at Harrod Brothers Funeral Home in Frankfort with services to be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Church of Ascension in Frankfort.