LEXINGTON, Ky. —Keeneland has announced expansions to its 2019 Spring Meet, which will open Thursday, April 4, a day earlier than in previous years, and present two new stakes, both $100,000 turf sprints, to its schedule for a total of 18 stakes worth a season record $4.6 million in purse money. Topping the 16-day meet, to be held April 4-26, are the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) and $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1), both nationally prominent classic preps set for opening Saturday, April 6.
The Thursday opener means the Spring Meet will not lose a day because of Easter Sunday, April 21, when Keeneland is closed. Prior to 1960, the Spring Meet often opened on Thursday when the season was shorter.
With the new stakes, the Spring Meet will present 10 stakes on grass and eight stakes on dirt.
“Keeneland is excited to offer these new features for the 2019 Spring Meet,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston said. “The addition of two turf stakes for 3-year-olds will increase opportunities for horsemen competing during the Spring Meet and fill a nice niche in the national landscape of turf racing. We’ve also seen the growing interest of several major connections to use the grass stakes at Keeneland to prepare for summer campaigns, including competing at Royal Ascot.
“The new races will enrich a season anchored by blockbuster stakes racing on the first two Saturdays and one that spotlights leading 3-year-olds with classic aspirations.”
New this spring are the $100,000 Palisades Turf Sprint, for 3-year-olds going 5½ furlongs on the grass, scheduled for opening day, April 4, and the $100,000 Limestone Turf Sprint, a 5½-furlong grass race for 3-year-old fillies that will be run Friday, April 12, as a supporting feature of the prestigious $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile (G1).
Keeneland held a Palisades Stakes (L), a turf event for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles, from 1989-2001.
Opening weekend of the Spring Meet continues Friday, April 5, with the $150,000 Kentucky Utilities Transylvania (G3), a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds.
Three-year-olds will take center stage the following day, April 6, for Keeneland’s signature Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland. Last year, Good Magic won the Toyota Blue Grass before running second in the Kentucky Derby (G1), and Monomoy Girl took the Central Bank Ashland before capturing the Kentucky Oaks (G1).
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 Toyota Blue Grass will be televised by NBC Sports Group along with the Wood Memorial (G2) from Aqueduct and Santa Anita Derby (G1).
The early nomination deadline for the Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland is Feb. 16. Late nominations are due March 20.
In addition to the Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland, the April 6 undercard will include the $300,000 Madison (G1), for older fillies and mares at 7 furlongs; $200,000 Shakertown (G2), for 3-year-olds and up at 5½ furlongs on the turf; and $250,000 Commonwealth (G3), for older horses over 7 furlongs.
The four-day opening weekend concludes Sunday, April 7, with two stakes for 3-year-old fillies: the $200,000 Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association, at 1 mile on turf, and the $150,000 Beaumont (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select, at 7 furlongs, 184 feet, on dirt.
For the remainder of the Spring Meet, racing will be held Wednesday through Sunday.
Friday, April 12, features the aforementioned Maker’s 46 Mile, for older horses on the turf, and the new Limestone Turf Sprint.
The second Saturday of racing, April 13, is another multistakes day centered around the $350,000 Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1), a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares on the turf, and the $200,000 Stonestreet Lexington (G3), 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 Derby qualifying points. The day’s other stakes are the $200,000 Ben Ali (G3), for older horses racing 1 1/8 miles, and $100,000 Giant’s Causeway (L), a 5½-furlong turf race for fillies and mares.
The final days of the Spring Meet offer a trio of graded stakes for older horses. The $100,000 Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3), for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, will be run Friday, April 19, followed the next day by the $250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn (G2) at 1½ miles on the turf. No racing will be held Easter Sunday, April 21.
The April 26 closing-day feature is the $150,000 Bewitch (G3), for fillies and mares racing 1½ miles on the turf.
During the Spring Meet, gates open at 11 a.m. ET. Post time for the first race daily is 1:05 p.m.
The 2019 Spring Meet will include the resumption of Keeneland’s April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, to be held Tuesday, April 9. Preview Day, during which cataloged horses will have breezes over both the dirt track and turf course, is scheduled for Monday, April 8.