Thursday, May 26, 2016

Former editor was a renaissance man

Fred Bradley, who passed away on Friday at the age of 85, will be remembered for many things. Being a former editor of The Journal-Enterprise would be among the least of those. Bradley fit the definition of a ‘renaissance man’ so closely that one might even believe the word was created just for him. His various accomplishments would make for an interesting and almost unbelievable novel.

Bradley was among the first people to cross the twin bridges between Evansville and Henderson. His father, James Lamar (J.L.) Bradley, had taken his pregnant wife across the Ohio River via a ferry in 1931, but by the time their new baby was released from the hospital, the first of the two bridges was open.

The proud parents could have had no idea when they passed fledgling Dade Park (renamed Ellis Park in 1954) in the shadows of the new bridge, just how big an impact that horse track would have on the life of their new son.

J.L. Bradley took over operation of The Journal-Enterprise while his son was still a baby. Young Fred would grow up surrounded by printing presses and reporters.

In 1949, Bradley was the valadictorian of Providence High School, where he was also captain of the football team. After high school Bradley went to the UK School of Journalism. Following his college graduation, his father got sick and called a 21-year-old Fred home to serve as Editor of The Journal-Enterprise.

“I loved the paper life,” Bradley said in an interview in 2012. “We had a good paper. I was real proud of it then and I still am.”

Eventually J.L.’s health improved and he returned to work. Instead of continuing a career in journalism, Fred entered the Air Force. He spent 38 years in the Air Force and Air National Guard, eventually rising to the rank of brigadier general.

Of all the things he did, Fred said flying was his favorite.

Flying the F-86, he accumulated 8,000 hours of flying time, serving in both Korea and Vietnam as a photo reconnaissance pilot.

The military service paid for Bradley to go back to UK, where the second time around he earned a law degree.

Following his second college graduation he spent time as a county judge and as the attorney for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. He also raced stock cars, owned a trucking company, started a successful law practice, served as a county judge in Frankfort and then as a Kentucky state senator.
But what Fred Bradley was best known for is horses. Fast horses. Among them Brass Hat, a now retired multimillionaire, and Groupie Doll, the first horse to win the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint at the Breeder’s Cup twice.

Fred’s love of horses started with his father. When they were running the newspaper he said they would go to Dade Park every day of the 26 day meet.

“It was the only time the paper didn’t get out promptly,” he joked after winning the Breeder’s Cup the first time.

But he credited former Providence businessman Huley Hudson for getting him started as an owner.
“I spent one winter going to his farm every day, learning about horses,” Bradley recalled. “He was a really good man.”

Bradley’s first horse cost him $2,000, more than  he paid for the 320 acre Indian Ridge farm he eventually turned into a championship breeding facility.

In 1996, while at the Keeneland September yearling sale, Fred Bradley paid $5,000 for a Dixie Brass filly he named Brassy. Although the young horse was unraced, Bradley bred her with Prized, a horse that had won the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Turf in his first start on grass. That paring produced Brass Hat.
Trained by Bradley’s son, William “Buff” Bradley, Brass Hat went on to claim over two million dollars in prizes before being retired, and the Bradley empire was founded.

“It takes one good horse to pay for the rest of the horses,” he said with a laugh during the interview. At that time he had 28 horses housed at Churchill Downs, including Groupie Doll.

In recent years, failing health, due to an injury and illness, led Bradley to cut back on the number of horses in his stables.

His funeral will be held Wednesday at Church of the Ascension in Frankfort. See obituary on Page A3.

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