Keeneland spring stakes purses rise

Five Grade I stakes, including the Toyota Blue Grass, Central Bank Ashland and the newly upgraded Jenny Wiley Stakes, headline the 16 stakes worth $3.625 million slated for Keeneland's 2012 spring race meeting. The total stakes purses represent a slight increase from the 16 stakes worth $3.425 million during the 2011 Spring Meet.

The 15-day spring meeting will run from Friday, April 6 through Friday, April 27. There is no racing on Mondays, Tuesdays or Easter Sunday (April 8). Post time for the first race is 1:15 p.m. daily.

Five Grade I stakes will be featured opening week, including the Ashland, a 11⁄16-mile stakes for 3-year-old fillies on April 7 which carries a purse of $500,000, elevated from $400,000 in 2011. Keeneland's signature Kentucky Derby prep race, the $750,000, 11⁄8-mile Toyota Blue Grass, is scheduled for April 14.

Many of the nation's top handicap horses will be showcased in the Grade I, $300,000 Vinery Madison Stakes, for older fillies and mares going 7 furlongs on April 12, and the Grade I, $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile, for older horses at a mile on the turf on April 13. Formerly known as the Maker's Mark Mile, the stakes has been renamed in honor of Maker's 46 bourbon, which is the distillery's first new product in more than 50 years.

Three other graded stakes will form a strong undercard on Toyota Blue Grass Day, including the Jenny Wiley, for older fillies and mares at 11⁄16 miles on the turf. The Jenny Wiley was promoted to Grade I status this year by the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and received a purse boost of $100,000 to $300,000.

"The racing world converges at Keeneland in the spring, and we are proud that our stakes schedule will once again provide lucrative opportunities for horsemen and exciting wagering options for our fans," said Keeneland vice president of racing Rogers Beasley. "The elevation of the Jenny Wiley to Grade I status, and purse increases for both it and the Central Bank Ashland are very positive steps. We continue to pursue initiatives to grow our racing program in order to remain competitive in today's very challenging environment."

Rounding out Toyota Blue Grass Day are two sprint stakes for 3-year-olds and up — the Grade II, $175,000 Commonwealth Stakes at 7 furlongs, and the Grade III, $100,000 Shakertown Stakes at 5½ furlongs on the turf.

Keeneland will host an additional Kentucky Derby prep with the Grade III, $200,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes, for 3-year-olds going 11⁄16 miles on April 21.