Keeneland Kicks Off 15-Day Stand Friday

Keeneland begins its 2015 Spring Meet on Friday with an exciting two days of racing headlined by the $1 million Blue Grass (G1), which moves up a week as part of a richer, re-ordered Spring Meet stakes calendar. The card for Saturday features five graded stakes races worth $2.275 million, including the Blue Grass and $500,000 Ashland (G1).

The Blue Grass is a prestigious 1 1/8-mile prep race for top three-year-olds aiming to run in the Kentucky Derby (G1). For 2015, Keeneland increased the purse of the spring's signature race by $250,000 to make the stakes worth $1 million and one of North American's richest Kentucky Derby preps. The Blue Grass was previously worth $750,000. The race also was moved to the first Saturday of the Spring Meet, which is four weeks before the Kentucky Derby, and will be run the same day as the Ashland, a fixture on the opening Saturday card and a significant Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep.

NBC Sports Network will provide live coverage of the Blue Grass and a replay of the Ashland on Saturday from 5-7 p.m.
In all, Keeneland's 15-day Spring Meet features 16 stakes races worth $4.35 million.

The Spring Meet runs through April 24, with live racing Wednesday through Sunday. Gates open at 11 a.m. (EDT); post time for the first race is 1:05 p.m. except on April 4 and April 11, when first post is 12:35 p.m. Keeneland is closed this Sunday due to the Easter holiday.

The shift of the Blue Grass to the first Saturday of the Spring Meet makes opening weekend one of the most impressive slates in racing. Three other graded stakes traditionally featured on the Blue Grass undercard will join the opening Saturday lineup and each has earned a purse enhancement: the $350,000 Madison (G1) 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 $125,000 Shakertown (G3) for older horses at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, up $25,000.

Other prominent stakes this spring are the $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile (G1) on the turf for older horses on April 10, and the $250,000 Lexington (G3), a 1 1/16-mile race on April 11 for three-year-olds with Triple Crown hopes.

The opening day feature is the $100,000  Transylvania (G3), a 1 1/16-mile turf race for three-year-olds. Luck of the Kitten (Kitten's Joy), a close second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) when last seen in November, is the likely favorite in his sophomore debut. Prior to the Breeders' Cup, Luck of the Kitten had won the Zuma Beach at Santa Anita and finished second in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile.

Other leading contenders are Eh Cumpari (Elusive Quality), recent winner of the Palm Beach at Gulfstream; Divisidero (Kitten's Joy), a close third in the Palm Beach in his stakes debut; Night Prowler (Giant's Causeway), who captured the Dania Beach (G3) at Gulfstream prior to a troubled fifth in the Palm Beach; A Lot (Tapit), a recent allowance winner after running second in the Dania Beach; Tuba (Magna Graduate), upset winner of the Black Gold at Fair Grounds; and last-out maiden winners Saham (Lemon Drop Kid) and Danish Dynaformer (Dynaformer).