(Edited press release)
The 85th running of the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I), one of the most prestigious races leading to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), will be run April 11 during Keeneland's 2009 spring race meeting that opens on Friday, April 3. A 1 1/8-mile race that is worth $750,000, the Toyota Blue Grass has been the springboard for 19 horses that have gone on to win the Derby. The 183 horses that were nominated to this year's race represent the highest number of nominations for the race in more than two decades.
During Keeneland’s 15-day spring season that runs through Friday, April 24, the track is offering $3.8 million in purses for 17 stakes in one of the richest stakes programs in North America. Post time for the first race each day is 1:05 p.m. (ET). Keeneland will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays and on Easter Sunday, April 12.
Live coverage of the Toyota Blue Grass will be broadcast from 4:30-5:30 p.m. on the cable network TVG, which will feature Keeneland racing each day during the spring meeting beginning at 1 p.m. Coverage of the Toyota Blue Grass also will be shown that same day on espn2 from 6-7 p.m.
The first half of the Keeneland meeting will include four grade I stakes. In addition to the Toyota Blue Grass, those races are the $400,000 Ashland for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles April 4; the $300,000 Vinery Madison for fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up, at seven furlongs April 9; and the $300,000 Maker's Mark Mile for 4-year-olds and up at one mile on turf April 10.
The Ashland, the filly counterpart to the Toyota Blue Grass, will be run for the 72nd year. The race is an important steppingstone to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), which is run the day before the Kentucky Derby. The Vinery Madison is making its debut as a grade I race after being promoted from grade II status. With the upgrade, Keeneland now runs a total of 10 grade I races during its spring and fall racing seasons. On April 18, espn2 will have live coverage of the $300,000 Coolmore Lexington (gr. II) from 5-6 p.m. The Coolmore Lexington at 1 1/16 miles also is for 3-year-olds.
On April 10, the track will offer the Maker’s Mark Mile-Toyota Blue Grass Double, requiring players to pick the winners of both grade I races. Keeneland will offer a $200,000-guaranteed all-stakes Pick 4 on Toyota Blue Grass Day, covering the Jenny Wiley (gr. II), Shakertown (gr. III), Commonwealth (gr. III) and Toyota Blue Grass.
Keeneland also is a leader in employing innovative technology to enhance the fan experience, such as Trakus race video and a PolyCapping database—both available at Keeneland.com. PolyCapping provides handicappers with detailed information on every horse that has won a race at Keeneland on the Polytrack main track or on the turf course since October 2006.
Last fall, Keeneland became North America's first high-definition racetrack when it began to provide live race coverage and limited simulcasts in high-definition format. HD broadcasts of Keeneland will be available via on-track television monitors, infield LED tote board and certain HC-compatible telecasts, such as those produced by ESPN.