One of North America's most lucrative stakes programs will be even richer for spring 2005, track officials at Keeneland announced Tuesday.During its upcoming April 8-29 spring meeting, Keeneland's stakes purses will increase to $4,125,000, a jump of $350,000 when compared to last year. None of the 19 stakes races--15 of which are graded--will be contested for less than $100,000.The spring meeting will be anchored by its two grade I events. The $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles April 16 is Keeneland's signature stepping-stone to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), while the $500,000 Ashland Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles April 9 has served as a traditional prep race for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).There will be at least one stakes race on each day of the 16-day meeting. Nine will be run on the main track, nine on the turf, and one--the Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings--over the hurdles.In addition to the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, Keeneland provides another route to the Kentucky Derby with its $325,000, Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles April 23.Three-year-olds will also face off in the $100,000-added Lafayette Stakes (gr. III) over six furlongs on April 10, and in the $100,000-added Forerunner Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on the turf April 21.The Vinery Madison Stakes (gr. III), recently elevated to a graded event by the American Graded Stakes Committee, has in a short time been increased from $100,000 to $175,000 to $200,000, and matches fillies and mares, 4-years-old and upward at seven furlongs on the main track. There are three other grade II races scheduled in addition to the Coolmore Lexington Stakes. The $250,000 Stonerside Beaumont for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, 184 feet is set for April 14, followed by the $250,000 Maker's Mark Mile for 4-year-olds and upward to be run at a mile on the turf April 15, and the $400,000-added Commonwealth Breeder's Cup for 3-year-olds and upward at seven furlongs April 16.
Purses for the Maker's Mark Mile and the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup (gr. II) were boosted $50,000 and $150,000 respectively. Two turf races also received purse increases. The Jenny Wiley Stakes, for fillies and mares 4-years-old and upward run at 1 1/16 miles April 17, was increased to $200,000 from $100,000. The Stravinsky Stakes, for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up set for 5 1/2 furlongs April 23, was increased this year to $100,000 from $75,000."Our goal with our racing program is to give horsemen a varied stakes schedule," said director of racing Rogers Beasley. "We also strive to maintain some of the richest purses in North America, giving horsemen yet another reason to compete at Keeneland."