Blue Grass Stakes highlights Keeneland Spring Meet roster

Keeneland will offer 16 stakes worth $3.625 million for its 2013 spring race meeting, headlined by the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes  and Grade I Central Bank Ashland Stakes, for colts and fillies, respectively, with classic aspirations.


The $3.625 million in stakes purses is equal to what was offered during the Spring 2012 meet.


The 16-day spring meeting will be held April 5-26, and features racing Wednesdays through Sundays. Post time for the first race each day is 1:05 p.m. ET. Fifteen of the spring’s 16 stakes are graded, highlighted by five Grade I events. Half of the stakes will be run on Polytrack and half contested on turf.


Anchoring the spring’s opening week are the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland, for three-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles on April 6, and the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass, for three-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on April 13, both signature preps for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, respectively.


Last year, Donegal Racing’s Dullahan defeated favored Hansen to become only the second horse to win Keeneland’s Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity  as a two-year-old and return the following spring to win the Toyota Blue Grass. Champion Round Table accomplished the feat in 1956-57.


Traditionally one of North America’s richest  racing programs, the Keeneland spring meet attracts the country’s top horses, trainers and jockeys. Among last spring’s highlights – Keeneland-based Wise Dan, leading contender for Horse of the Year honors, kicked off his 2012 season with a record-setting, 10½-length win in the Grade III Ben Ali Stakes; Eclipse Award finalist Groupie Doll won the Grade I Madison Stakes by three lengths; and Eclipse Award finalist Point of Entry notched his first stakes victory in the closing day Grade II Elkhorn Stakes.


“Keeneland is so special because the ‘best of the best’ from across the country converge here to compete against each other, and that makes for some very memorable racing moments,” said Vice President of Racing W.B. Rogers Beasley.


In addition to the Central Bank Ashland and Toyota Blue Grass, Keeneland will showcase many of the nation’s top handicap horses in three other Grade 1 stakes – the aforementioned Madison Stakes  on April 11, for older fillies and mares going seven furlongs; the Grade I Maker’s 46 Mile, on the turf on April 12; and the Grade I Jenny Wiley Stakes, for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf on April 13.


Trainer Charlie Lopresti has indicated he would point Wise Dan, the favorite to be named Horse of the Year this Saturday, to the Maker’s 46 Mile as his seasonal bow.


The $200,000, Grade III Coolmore Lexington Stakes, for three-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles and a second Keeneland prep on the road to the Kentucky Derby, will be held April 20.


In a change, the $175,000 Commonwealth Stakes, held April 13 for older horses going seven furlongs, will carry Grade III status. The Commonwealth was previously a Grade II stakes.


The complete 2013 spring stakes schedule is as follows:


2013 Keeneland Spring Stakes Schedule


DATE             STAKES                                                          DIVISION      DISTANCE


April 5             $100,000 Transylvania (G3)                         3YO                1 1/16 Miles (T)

April 6             $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1)         3YO F             1 1/16 Miles


April 11           $300,000 Madison (G1)                                4YO & Up,

F&M                7 Furlongs


April 12           $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile (G1)                   4YO & Up      1 Mile (T)


April 13           $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G1)                3YO                1 1/8 Miles


April 13           $300,000 Jenny Wiley (G1)                           4YO & Up,

F&M                1 1/16 Miles (T)


April 13           $175,000 Commonwealth (G3)                    4YO & Up      7 Furlongs


April 13           $100,000 Shakertown (G3)                           4YO & Up      5½ Furlongs (T)


April 14           $150,000 Beaumont (G2) Presented by

                                                Keeneland Select                  3YO F             7 Furlongs, 184 ft


April 18           $100,000 Appalachian (G3)                          3YO F            1 Mile (T)


April 19           $100,000 Hilliard Lyons                               4YO & Up

Doubledogdare (G3)            F&M                1 1/16 Miles


April 20           $200,000 Coolmore Lexington (G3)            3YO                1 1/16 Miles


April 20           $100,000 Giant’s Causeway (L)                   4YO & Up,

F&M                5½ Furlongs (T)


April 21           $150,000 Ben Ali (G3)                                   4YO & Up      1 1/8 Miles


April 25           $150,000 Bewitch (G3)                                 4YO & Up,  

F&M                1½ Miles (T)


April 26           $150,000 Elkhorn (G2)                                  4YO & Up      1½ Miles (T)