Another important springboard to the Derby and Triple Crown events is the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes, a grade II event for 3-year-olds, at 1 1/16 miles April 19."When Howard Battle and Bill Greely assumed the task of elevating Keeneland's racing program, one of their objectives was to create a three-week racing festival featuring a stakes each day," said director of racing Rogers Beasley. "That's what Keeneland offers now -- a racing festival that gives the horsemen an opportunity for their entire stable to run in top maiden and allowance races as well as a stakes."Closing day will feature the $100,000 Ben Ali, a grade III event for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, and the $150,000 Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings for 4-year-olds and up at 2 1/4 miles over national fences.
Nineteen stakes worth $3.675 million will be run during Keeneland's 15-day spring meet from April 4-25.Fourteen of the stakes are graded and 10 will be run on the turf. At least one stakes worth $100,000 or more will be run each day of the meet. The Transylvania and the Shakertown each were elevated to grade 3 status for 2003 by the American Graded Stakes Committee.Two grade I races anchor the rich stakes program: the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass for 3-year-olds and the $500,000 Ashland Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The 1 1/8-mile Toyota Blue Grass will be run April 12, three weeks before the Kentucky Derby. The Ashland, a 1 1/16-mile stepping stone for the Kentucky Oaks, is set for April 5.