Keeneland today announced its 2018 Spring Meet will offer 16 stakes worth a season record $4.4 million in purse money. Headlining the meet, to be held April 6-27, are the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass and $500,000 Central Bank Ashland, both nationally prominent classic preps, and enhanced status for the $200,000 Appalachian Presented by Japan Racing Association.
Fifteen of the spring’s 16 stakes are graded events with half contested on the turf. The Appalachian, a 1-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies, was upgraded to a Grade 2 stakes for 2018 by the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. Keeneland increased the purse of the Appalachian by $75,000 to $200,000 and moved the race to the first Sunday of the meet.
“Keeneland takes great pride in the strength and diversity of its racing program, and we continually elevate the opportunities to attract North America’s top horsemen,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston said.
“We know the Keeneland Spring Meet is a special event on everyone’s calendar. For that reason, we strive to offer the best racing experience possible for horsemen and fans alike.”
The first two Saturdays of the 16-day Spring Meet are blockbuster days of racing with multiple stakes that showcase the sport’s human and equine stars.
Opening Saturday, April 7, features Keeneland’s signature Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland. The Toyota Blue Grass, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles, and the Central Bank Ashland, for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, are worth 100 points each to the winners on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks respectively.
The early nomination deadline for the Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland is Feb. 17. Late nominations are due March 21.
On April 7, NBC Sports Network will provide live coverage of the Toyota Blue Grass, along with the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and Santa Anita Derby, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. ET.
The Toyota Blue Grass Day undercard comprises the $300,000 Madison, for older fillies and mares at 7 furlongs; $200,000 Shakertown for 3-year-olds and up at 5½ furlongs on the turf; and $250,000 Commonwealth for older horses over 7 furlongs.
Opening weekend concludes Sunday, April 8, with the aforementioned Appalachian and the $150,000 Beaumont, for 3-year-old fillies going 7 furlongs, 184 feet, on dirt.
The $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile, for older horses on the turf, will be held Friday, April 13.
Four stakes highlight the second Saturday of racing, April 14, anchored by the $350,000 Coolmore Jenny Wiley, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares on the turf, and the $200,000 Stonestreet Lexington, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. One of the final preps on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the Stonestreet Lexington awards the winner 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Rounding out the undercard that day are the $200,000 Ben Ali, for older horses racing 1 1/8 miles, and $100,000 Giant’s Causeway, a 5½-furlong turf race for fillies and mares.
Older horses are showcased in graded stakes during the final days of the Spring Meet. The $100,000 Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare, for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, is set for Friday, April 20, followed by the $250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn at 1½ miles on the turf on Saturday, April 21. Closing day, April 27, features the 150,000 Bewitch, for fillies and mares racing 1½ miles on the turf.
Racing during the Spring Meet will be held Wednesday through Sunday. Gates open at 11 a.m. ET. Post time for the first race daily is 1:05 p.m.