Edited Keeneland Release
Thoroughbred racing returns to Keeneland April 8, the official start of the track’s 75th anniversary celebration.
Highlights of the 15-day season, which concludes April 29, include the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) and the $400,000 Central Bank Ashland (gr. I), springboards to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), respectively.
This spring, Keeneland will feature racing on Wednesday through Sunday except Easter Sunday, April 24. Post time for the first race each day is 1:15 p.m. (all times Eastern). With an average daily purses of more than $600,000, Keeneland carries one of North America’s richest racing programs. Fifteen of the 16 stakes are graded; half of them will be contested on the turf. At least one stakes race will be held on 11 days.
Keeneland also will offer a promotions schedule designed to appeal to fans of all ages. New this spring are a 50-cent Pick Five wager, an expanding social and digital media presence, 75-cent hot dogs on Wednesdays, and a variety of book signings hosted by the Keeneland Gift Shop coupled with the return of such fan favorites as College Scholarship Day, Pink Day, Military Day, and Breakfast With the Works.
Toyota Blue Grass Predates Keeneland
The Blue Grass, named for the famed Bluegrass region of Central Kentucky, was held in 1911 at the old Kentucky Association track near downtown Lexington. In April 1937, Keeneland held its inaugural spring meeting and ran the Blue Grass for the first time. Since then, the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds has served as a prep race for 19 horses that have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky has sponsored the Blue Grass since 1996.
Opening week of this year’s spring meeting includes three other grade I stakes: the $400,000 Ashland at 1 1/16 miles on April 9; the $300,000 Vinery Madison at seven furlongs April 14; and the $300,000 Maker’s Mark Mile at one mile on turf April 15.
The Ashland, the filly counterpart to the Toyota Blue Grass, has traditionally been a premier prep for the Kentucky Oaks. Since 1936, 31 fillies have used the Ashland as a steppingstone to victory in the Oaks, including three this past decade: Ashado (2004), Summerly (2005) and Proud Spell (2008). Last year, in a thrilling stretch run, Central Bank Ashland winner Evening Jewel lost the Oaks by only a nose to champion Blind Luck.
Three-year-olds with Triple Crown aspirations also will compete at Keeneland in the Coolmore Lexington (gr. III) April 23. The 1 1/16-mile race is worth $200,000.
Keeneland Racing Broadcast via TVG, WLEX and Online
The cable network TVG will feature Keeneland each race day beginning at 1 p.m.
TVG will carry live coverage of the post position draw for the Toyota Blue Grass April 13 from 11:30 a.m until noon, and comprehensive coverage of the race from 5-6 p.m. April 16.
Lexington’s NBC affiliate, WLEX TV, will broadcast live on Toyota Blue Grass Day, with coverage from 4-6:30 p.m.
Racing fans also can watch the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland.com and at NTRA Live!
Once again, Keeneland will stream its races live and at no cost at Keeneland.com.
New at Keeneland this spring is the popular 50-cent Pick Five wager in which a player must select the winner of five consecutive races. Other budget-conscious wagers include 50-cent Pick Three, Pick Four and Trifecta wagers, as well as a 10-cent Superfecta.
On April 16, Keeneland will offer a $250,000-guaranteed All-Stakes Pick 4, presented by TVG. The wager covers the Toyota Blue Grass, Commonwealth (gr. II), Jenny Wiley (gr. II) and Shakertown (gr. III).
Horseplayers also can take part in the Keeneland Handicapping Contest each Wednesday of the season. Entrants will receive a free Daily Racing Form and will play for a guaranteed $2,500 pool.
In addition to spectacular racing, Keeneland will offer a full calendar of special events guaranteed to appeal to fans of all ages, highlighted by:
--College Scholarship Day, Friday, April 8, is an annual rite of spring for thousands of students from colleges and universities in Kentucky and surrounding states. Admission is free for full-time students, who can register to win one of ten $1,000 scholarships. Students will enjoy live music and prize drawings provided by local retailers. The first 1,000 students to register receive a free T-shirt courtesy of Kennedy Book Store in Lexington.
--Breakfast With the Works on Saturday mornings during the racing season features a Southern-style breakfast buffet and free children’s activities. Watch the horses as they train over the track and enjoy equine-related demonstrations.
--Military Appreciation Day on Sunday, April 17. Fans are encouraged arrive early to help Keeneland welcome 900 troops from Fort Knox. Throughout the afternoon, soldiers will have access to a phone bank to call their loved ones, courtesy of Windstream Communications.