Lexington, KY – Keeneland kicks off its 2013 spring race meeting on Friday, April 5, marking the start of 16 days of extraordinary racing featuring the nation’s top stables and riders and headlined by the 89th running of the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass, a springboard to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
Exciting wagering opportunities, a jam-packed special events calendar, and enhanced amenities for fans of all ages and interests highlight the spring meet, which runs through Friday, April 26.
Keeneland will conduct racing on Wednesday through Sunday with the post time for the first race each day at 1:05 p.m. (ET). Racing will be featured on the cable network TVG beginning at 11 a.m., and fans can watch every race live – at no charge – on the track’s website, Keeneland.com, where the latest information related to handicapping, promotions and all things Keeneland can be found.
Keeneland offers spectacular racing in a setting unlike any other racetrack in America. The nation’s top jockeys and trainers compete for some of the country’s richest purse money – 16 stakes, including five Grade 1 events, are worth a total of $3.625 million. A purse increase also will add more than $627,000 to the overnight purse pool, raising Keeneland’s average daily purses to more than $611,250 – among the highest in North America.
The track’s ultra-competitive jockey colony is set to include Racing Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, who returned to the saddle in January after a retirement, and Eclipse Award winner Julien Leparoux, who captured his fifth consecutive, and ninth overall, leading rider title during the 2012 fall season, as well as leading female jockey Rosie Napravnik. Stevens last rode at Keeneland in 2005, his final season of competition.
Keeneland’s signature race, the Toyota Blue Grass, is this year worth 100 points to the winner on the new Road to the Kentucky Derby. The Toyota Blue Grass, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, has been the springboard for 19 horses that have gone to win the Kentucky Derby. Keeneland set an all-time attendance record last year on Toyota Blue Grass Day when 40,617 fans were at the races, while a record $1,925,900 was wagered on the Toyota Blue Grass.
In another change for this year, the $300,000 Madison Stakes, won last year by eventual champion female sprinter Groupie Doll, was moved to April 13, joining the $300,000 Jenny Wiley, for older fillies and mares, and the $175,000 Commonwealth and $100,000 Shakertown, both Grade 3 stakes for older horses, as part of an exciting Toyota Blue Grass Day undercard.
The $500,000 Central Bank Ashland, for 3-year-old fillies racing 1 1/16 miles, will be held opening Saturday, April 6. The Central Bank Ashland is a major steppingstone on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, awarding 100 points to the winner as part of the new point system for classic contenders. Thirty-one fillies have used the Central Bank Ashland as a prep to victory in the Oaks.
Other prominent stakes slated for this spring are the $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile, a one-mile race on the turf for older horses on April 12, and the $200,000 Coolmore Lexington, a 1 1/16-mile race on April 20 for 3-year-olds with Triple Crown aspirations.