Anne M. Eberhardt

Blue Grass, Ashland Highlight Keeneland Meet

Keeneland will be celebrating the start of the track's 75th anniversary in the spring

Sixteen stakes worth $3.425 million, anchored by the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) and the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (gr. I), are scheduled for Keeneland’s 2011 spring race meet, the official start of the Lexington track’s 75th anniversary celebration.

Keeneland will once again offer average daily purses of more than $600,000 for the 15-day meet, to be held April 8-29, ranking it as one of North America’s richest racing programs. Fifteen of the 16 stakes are graded, while half will be contested on the turf. At least one stakes will be held on 11 of the 15 race days, which features racing Wednesday through Sunday except Easter Sunday, April 24.

Headlining the meet will be four grade I events – the Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland, premier preps for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), respectively; the Vinery Madison for older fillies and mares at seven furlongs on the main track, and the Maker’s Mark Mile for older horses on the turf.

“The racing world converges on Keeneland in the spring because they know this is where the best jockeys, trainers, and horses will be, and they want to compete at the highest level,” said director of racing W.B. Rogers Beasley.

Three-year-old fillies and colts with classic aspirations will be showcased in the $400,000 Central Bank Ashland at 1 1/16 miles opening Saturday, April 9, and the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass at 1 1/8 miles Saturday, April 16. Thirty-one fillies have used the Ashland as a springboard to victory in the Kentucky Oaks. Last year’s Ashland winner, Evening Jewel, narrowly missed the garland of lilies, losing the Oaks by only a nose to eventual champion Blind Luck.

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Toyota Blue Grass Day will feature a strong undercard highlighted by the Jenny Wiley (gr. IIT) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles; the Commonwealth (gr. II) for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs; and the Shakertown (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds and up at 5½ furlongs. The Commonwealth will carry a purse of $175,000, which reflects a loss of $75,000 in Breeders’ Cup funding.

An additional Kentucky Derby prep, the $200,000 Coolmore Lexington (gr. III), for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, will be run a week after the Toyota Blue Grass. The Coolmore Lexington was previously a grade II stakes worth $300,000.

In another change this spring, the purse for the closing day Elkhorn (gr. IIT), formerly sponsored by Fifth Third Bank, has been lowered from $200,000 to $150,000.

2011 Keeneland Spring Stakes Schedule

Date                Stakes                                                            

April 8             $100,000 Transylvania (gr. IIIT)                                                  

April 9             $400,000 Central Bank Ashland (gr. I)               

April 14           $300,000 Vinery Madison (gr. I)

April 15           $300,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (gr. IT)             

April 16           $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I)

April 16           $175,000 Commonwealth (gr. II)

April 16           $200,000 Jenny Wiley (gr. IIT)                          

April 16           $100,000 Shakertown (gr. IIIT)                          

April 17           $150,000 Beaumont (gr. II)

April 21           $100,000 Appalachian (gr. IIIT)                         

April 22           $100,000 Doubledogdare (gr. III)                    

April 23           $200,000 Coolmore Lexington (gr. III)           

April 23           $100,000 Giant’s Causeway       

April 23           $150,000 Ben Ali (gr. III)                                  

April 28           $150,000 Grey Goose Bewitch (gr. IIIT)           

April 29           $150,000 Elkhorn (gr. IIT)