Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland Reduces Spring Stakes Purses

Two stakes were cut, and total stakes purses were reduced by $600,000 from last year.

Seventeen stakes worth $3.8 million will be run during Keeneland's spring meet, which begins April 3 and continues through April 24.

Two stakes—the Lafayette and Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings (NSA-I)—were not scheduled for 2009, and total stakes purses were reduced by $600,000 from last spring. Keeneland was, however, able to maintain its overnight purse schedule.

Keeneland, unlike other tracks, puts more into purses than the 50% of revenue that comes from pari-mutuel handle. The other sources, such as auction revenue, have taken hits the past year.

Highlighting the schedule are the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 11, and the $400,000 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) April 4. There are four grade I races scheduled for the spring meet, including the Vinery Madison, which was increased by $100,000 to $300,000 following its recent elevation from grade II status.

“Keeneland’s stakes program remains both strong and diverse, and overnight purses will continue at the same level as recent years based on a $50,000 purse for maidens,” Keeneland director of racing Rogers Beasley said in a statement. “The stakes purse reductions are the result of a combination of factors—loss of sponsors, the economy, and a decline in sale revenues. As new sponsors are added, purses will be increased.”

Keeneland’s purses will continue to average about $600,000 daily. Fifteen of the track’s 17 stakes are graded. Nine will be run on Polytrack and eight will be contested on the turf. There will be a stakes on 12 of the 15 days during the spring meet, which features racing Wednesdays through Sundays, except Easter Sunday, April 12.

Joining the Toyota Blue Grass as an important steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) is the $300,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II)  April 18. The purse for the Lexington previously was $325,000. The Ashland serves as a prelude to the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. The purse for the Ashland was reduced by $100,000.

Beginning with the April 9 Vinery Madison, there will be three grade I stakes in as many days. The Vinery Madison will be followed by the $300,000 Maker’s Mark Mile on the turf April 10, and the Toyota Blue Grass the following day. Among the supporting features on Toyota Blue Grass day is the $250,000 Commonwealth Stakes (gr. II), which is part of the Breeders’ Cup series. The purse was reduced $150,000 from last year.

The $150,000, grade II Beaumont Stakes April 8 has been reduced by $100,000. Reduced by $25,000 each were the Shakertown Stakes and the Appalachian Stakes (both gr. IIIT), the Doubledogdare Stakes (gr. III), and the Coolmore Lexington.