Seven stakes carry significant purse increases, led by the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1), to be held one week earlier, on opening Saturday, April 4, creating a blockbuster day of racing that features four other graded stakes, including the Central Bank Ashland (G1) and the Madison (G1).
With the purse increase, the Toyota Blue Grass, for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles, ranks as one of North America’s richest Kentucky Derby (G1) preps.
It becomes Keeneland’s second million-dollar stakes, following the Fall Meet’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), which was increased to $1 million earlier this year. The Toyota Blue Grass, sponsored by Toyota since 1996, was previously worth $750,000.
The move will be the first date change for the Blue Grass since the race was shifted from the final Thursday of the Spring Meet to the second Saturday in 1989.
Three other stakes traditionally featured on the Toyota Blue Grass undercard will join the opening Saturday lineup and each has earned a purse enhancement: the $350,000 Madison, a Grade 1 event for older fillies and mares going seven furlongs, up $50,000 from last year; the $300,000 Commonwealth (G3), for older horses at seven furlongs, up $125,000; and the Shakertown (G3), for older horses at 5½ furlongs on the turf, up $25,000.
The $500,000 Central Bank Ashland, for 3-year-olds competing at 1 1/16 miles, is a premier prep for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and will remain a fixture on the opening Saturday card.
“By moving the Toyota Blue Grass up a week on the calendar, to be a month before the Kentucky Derby, and elevating the purse to a million dollars, we further enhance its stature as a nationally prominent classic prep,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing W.B. Rogers Beasley said. “The coupling of these two Keeneland icons – the Blue Grass and the Ashland – will make for a spectacular day of racing and give fans the opportunity to see top Derby and Oaks contenders.”
The Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland are worth 100 points each to the winners on the Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Road to the Kentucky Oaks (G1), respectively.
The early nomination deadline for the Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland is February 21; late nominations are due March 25.
The shifting of the Spring Meet stakes calendar provided Keeneland an opportunity to strengthen the Coolmore Lexington (G3), a Kentucky Derby prep for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, which moves up a week to Saturday, April 11, and carries a boosted value of $250,000, up from $200,000 last year.
Coolmore Lexington Day anchors a strong second weekend of racing, April 10-12, which kicks off Friday with the $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile (G1), for older horses on the turf. The $300,000 Jenny Wiley (G1), for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, remains in its traditional spot on the second Saturday, April 11. Moving up a week to join that day’s undercard are the $150,000 Ben Ali (G3), for older horses at 1 1/8 miles, and the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway (L), for older fillies and mares at 5½ furlongs on the turf.
Three-year-old fillies will be showcased with two stakes on Sunday, April 12 – the Beaumont (G2), now sponsored by the Stronach Family’s Adena Springs farm and the Appalachian Presented by the Japan Racing Association (G3). The Adena Springs Beaumont, for 3-year-old fillies at a distance of 7 furlongs, 184 feet, will offer a purse of $250,000 versus $200,000 in 2014. The purse for the Appalachian, for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on the turf, has been raised from $100,000 to $125,000. That race has been moved up four days on the stakes calendar.
In the final change to the Spring Meet stakes schedule, the $250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn (G2), for older horses over 1½ miles on the turf, has been changed from closing day to Saturday, April 18. The $150,000 Bewitch (G3), for older fillies and mares at 1½ miles on the turf, will now be the closing-day feature.
The 15-day Spring Meet will feature racing Wednesdays through Sundays; no racing will be conducted on Easter Sunday, April 5. Post time for the first race each day is 1:05 p.m. ET.