04/23/2008 12:00AM

Brass Hat switches to grass


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The large placard outside one end of the Churchill Downs barn does not say "Bradley Stable," "Buff," or anything about the trainer, which one might normally expect. It reads: "Brass Hat."

Such is the imprint made by the 7-year-old Brass Hat. With more than $1.7 million in earnings - and that doesn't include the $1.2 million taken from him after a controversial disqualification from the runner-up spot in the 2006 Dubai World Cup - Brass Hat has been the proverbial tide to lift all boats in the William "Buff" Bradley stable.

Friday, when Keeneland closes the books on another spring meet, Brass Hat will be looking for a mild upset when he switches to grass and stretches out to 1 1/2 miles in the ninth-race feature, the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes.

"I'll tell you what, he loves the grass," Bradley said. "It's kind of a good time to change things up on him. We kept saying we need to get him back on the grass before he gets too old, and this looked like a good spot for us to try."

The $200,000 Elkhorn drew a field of 13 older horses, including one also-eligible, for its 23rd running. Brass Hat, with Willie Martinez riding as usual, will break from posto7 when coming off back-to-back fourths in the Grade 1 Donn and Grade 2 New Orleans handicaps. At 3, Brass Hat finished second in the Forerunner Stakes at Keeneland, his best of four career attempts on turf.

"He's going into this race better than he has in a while, and the distance isn't a problem for him," Bradley said. "It's a full field and a tough-looking race."

Indeed it is. The Elkhorn lineup also includes Stream of Gold, True Cause, and Cougar Bay, the respective 1-2-3 finishers in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida last month at Gulfstream Park; Pellegrino, the 2006 Elkhorn winner; Transduction Gold, upset winner of the Grade 3 Sycamore here last fall; Dancing Forever, runner-up in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf; and Drilling for Oil, winner of the Louisville Handicap last summer.

Completing the field are French Vintage, Embossed, Bee Charmer, Silverfoot, and the lone also-eligible, Lauro.

The Elkhorn is part of a late pick four with a $200,000 guaranteed pool. After the Friday card, live action on the Kentucky circuit moves the following afternoon to Churchill in Louisville.