Edited from Keeneland press release--Keeneland has announced the stakes program for its 2006 spring meet. The schedule features two grade elevations and a total of 19 stakes races worth $4,225,000. The Lexington track opens its 15-day meet April 7, and races through April 28. There will be no racing on Easter Sunday (April 16). Highlighting Keeneland's meet are two grade I stakes--the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes April 15 and the $500,000 Ashland Stakes April 8-- both of which serve as preps for the spring classics. Historically, many top Kentucky Derby (gr. I) contenders have used the Toyota Blue Grass, run for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles, as a final stop on the road to the Kentucky Derby. Similarly, trainers point Kentucky Oaks-bound fillies toward the Ashland for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.The Toyota Blue Grass will be televised as part of ABC-TV's live racing coverage from 5:00-6:00 pm (EDT) April 15.
Keeneland hosts an additional Derby prep, the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II), going 1 1/16 miles April 22. ESPN2 will carry the Coolmore Lexington during its racing coverage from 6:00 -7:00 pm (EDT) April 22. Two stakes, the Vinery Madison and the Jenny Wiley, each worth $200,000 for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up, have been elevated to grade II status for the 2006 spring meet by the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. The Vinery Madison at seven furlongs will be held April 12, while the Jenny Wiley at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, will be contested April 15. The other grade II stakes are the $250,000 Stonerside Beaumont, for 3- year-old fillies at seven furlongs, 184 feet April 13; the $250,000 Maker's Mark Mile for 4-year-olds and up at 1 mile on the turf April 14; and the $400,000 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs April 15. Additionally, the $150,000 Central Bank Transylvania (gr. IIIT) opening day and the $200,000 Fifth Third Elkhorn (gr. IIIT) April 28, each received a $50,000 purse boost due in part to new sponsorship. "We continually strive to offer our horsemen rich and varied racing opportunities," said Keeneland racing director Rogers Beasley. "We hope by doing so we provide our patrons with the most competitive racing program possible."There will be at least one stakes race on each day of the meeting. Nine stakes will be run over the main track, nine on the turf, and one, the Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings, over the hurdles. Fourteen of the 19 stakes are graded. 2006 Spring Stakes Schedule April 7 -- Central Bank Transylvania (gr. IIIT); $150,000, 3-year-olds, 1 mile April 8 -- Ashland (gr. I); $500,000, 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles April 9 – Lafayette; $100,000-added, 3-year-olds, six furlongs April 12 -- Vinery Madison (gr. II); $200,000, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, seven furlongs April 13 -- Stonerside Beaumont (gr. II); $250,000, 3-year-old fillies, seven furlongs, 184 feet April 14 -- Maker's Mark Mile (gr. IIT); $250,000, 4-year-olds and up, 1 mile April 14 -- Shakertown (gr. IIIT); $100,000-added, 3-year-olds and up, 5 1/2 furlongs April 15 -- Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I); $750,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles April 15 -- Commonwealth Breeders' Cup (gr. II); $400,000*, 3-year-olds and up, seven furlongs April 15 -- Jenny Wiley (gr. IIT); $200,000, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles April 19 – Doubledogdare; $100,000-added, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles April 20 – Forerunner; $100,000-added, 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles (turf) April 21 -- Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings (NSA-I); $150,000, 4-year-olds and up, 2 1/2 miles (hurdles) April 22 -- Coolmore Lexington (gr. II); $325,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles April 22 – Giant's Causeway; $100,000-added, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 5 1/2 furlongs (turf) April 23 – Appalachian; $100,000-added, 3-year-old fillies, 1 mile (turf) April 26 -- Bewitch (gr. IIIT); $100,000-added, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/2 miles April 27 -- Ben Ali (gr. III); $150,000, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles April 28 -- Fifth Third Elkhorn (gr. IIIT); $200,000, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/2 miles *Includes $100,000 from Breeders' Cup