04/08/2013 2:26PM

Keeneland: Chad Brown changing horses for Blue Grass

Coady Photography/Keeneland
Balance the Books, here winning the Bourbon last year, ran 11th in his 3-year-old debut, the March 23 Spiral Stakes over the Turfway Park Polytrack.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Chad Brown is swapping out Noble Tune in favor of Balance the Books for the Blue Grass Stakes, a move that changes up things in his own stable – but not the bulkiness of the field for the 89th running of the Keeneland showcase Saturday.

Keeneland officials are expecting more than the 14-horse limit when entries are drawn Wednesday at the annual media breakfast for the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass, a situation that likely will necessitate having an also-eligibles list for the 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race.

Brown, the 34-year-old New Yorker who already has Wood Memorial runner-up Normandy Invasion as a major hopeful for the May 4 Kentucky Derby, said he decided to take Noble Tune off the Derby trail after the colt breezed five furlongs Sunday in 1:01.20 over the Keeneland Polytrack. At the same time, Brown is granting Balance the Books a reprieve despite the colt having finished an awful 11th in his 3-year-old debut, the March 23 Spiral Stakes over the Turfway Park Poly.

[BLUE GRASS STAKES: Get Keeneland PPs, watch video previews]

Noble Tune, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall and a narrow winner of his only start at 3 in a Tampa Bay Downs turf allowance, “has had two works on Poly, and they just haven’t been up to par for me,” explained Brown. “I mean, he worked okay Sunday, but he just hasn’t taken to the Poly as I had hoped. We’re just going to keep him on the grass and run him in the American Turf,” a Grade 2 race on the May 3 Kentucky Oaks undercard at Churchill Downs.

Conversely, Brown said he has been encouraged with the way Balance the Books has gotten over the Keeneland Poly. Beaten just a neck by Noble Tune when he was third in the BC Juvenile Turf last fall, the colt also breezed Sunday, getting a half-mile in 48.20 seconds.

“Obviously he tanked at Turfway, but he only ran for maybe half the race before he spit the bit, which isn’t like him,” he said. “He’s been at Keeneland ever since the day after that race, and I’ve decided to just draw a line through the Spiral. He’s better than that and deserving of one more chance.”

Noble Tune and Balance the Books were among a dozen or so weekend workers with designs on the Blue Grass. Two other top contenders, Charming Kitten (four furlongs in 50 seconds at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida) and Java’s War (five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Gulfstream Park), also worked Sunday, one day after no fewer than eight other Blue Grass candidates undertook serious breezes.

Among the Saturday workers were Demonic (seven furlongs at Betfair Hollywood Park in 1:27.60) and Eton Blue (four furlongs in 48.20 seconds at Palm Meadows). John Sadler, trainer of Demonic, told Keeneland officials over the weekend that he intended to ship the colt Tuesday on a charter flight from California, but only if it seemed assured the colt would make the race.

As many as 18 horses were under consideration as of Monday, meaning the race could be carded with as many as 16, including two also-eligibles. West Hills Giant (trained by John Terranova) and Channel Isle (D. Wayne Lukas) were among those confirmed for the race Monday.

Favoritism appears up for grabs in this wide-open renewal of the Blue Grass, with Uncaptured, Java’s War, Rydilluc, and the uncoupled Todd Pletcher pair of Charming Kitten and Palace Malice all likely to attract solid support.

The Blue Grass, which offers 100 points to the winner (and 170 overall) on the new eligibility system in use for the Kentucky Derby, anchors a great Saturday card that also will include the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley, Grade 1 Madison, Grade 3 Commonwealth, and Grade 3 Shakertown.

[DERBY WATCH: Top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders with odds and video]

The Blue Grass will be part of a 90-minute broadcast on the NBC Sports Network. The show starts at 4:30 p.m. Eastern and also will include the Arkansas Derby. Tom Hammond anchors the coverage.

Keeneland is offering an all-stakes pick-four wager with a guaranteed pool of $250,000 Saturday. Race selection and order will be determined Wednesday.