KeeSpring Meet Opens With Standouts Stakes Noms

March 30, 2024

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champ Just F Y I is nominated to the Central Bank Ashland. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Keeneland Press Release

LEXINGTON, Ky.—Keeneland’s 16-day Spring Meet opens Friday, April 5 and runs through Friday, April 26. First post is 1 p.m. ET except April 26, when the first race is at 12:30 p.m.

Keeneland’s 2024 Spring Meet begins Friday, April 5 to launch three days of outstanding Thoroughbred racing led by a total of 10 stakes worth $4.7 million and including champions, Grade 1 winners and defending race winners among the nominees. The weekend includes the 100th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) on Saturday, April 6.

The Spring Meet will cover a total of 16 days through Friday, April 26 with no racing Mondays and Tuesdays. The first race is at 1 p.m. ET with the exception of closing day, Friday, April 26 when the first post is 12:30 p.m. to accommodate the 10-race card that will conclude in time for that evening’s April Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale.

FanDuel TV will present extensive live coverage of every Keeneland race beginning at noon and will have the exclusive live broadcast of the Toyota Blue Grass (5:52 p.m. post) on April 6.

In addition, all races will be livestreamed at no charge on Keeneland.comKeeneland Race Day AppKeeneland Select and Keeneland’s YouTube channel.

Click here for the 2024 Keeneland Spring Meet stakes schedule, which includes links to the lists of nominees for each race and their past performances.

Opening day features Central Bank Ashland

Jody’s Pride swishing to victory in the Busher. (Walter Wlodarczyk)

The $600,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1) will headline three stakes for 3-year-olds on the 10-race opening-day card. The year’s first Grade 1 event for 3-year-old fillies and an important springtime target for the division’s most talented runners, the 1 1/16-mile Central Bank Ashland will be run for the 87th time.

A total of 91 fillies, including George Krikorian’s champion Just F Y I and Parkland Thoroughbreds and Sportsmen Stable’s recent Busher (L) winner, Jody’s Pride, were nominated to the Central Bank Ashland. The race offers 200 qualifying points on a 100-50-25-15-10 scale to the respective first- through fifth-place finishers toward the 150th running of the $1.5 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) to be run May 3 at Churchill Downs.

Other opening-day stakes are the 36th running of the $400,000 Transylvania (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select going a mile and a sixteenth on the turf and the 76th running of the $400,000 Lafayette at 7 furlongs on the main track.

A total of 45 horses were nominated to the Transylvania Presented by Keeneland Select. They include Can Group, who was a fast-closing fourth in the Prevagen Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) after winning the Castle & Key Bourbon (G2) at Keeneland for trainer Mark Casse and the ownership group of D.J. Stable and Cash Is King. Other nominees include West Point Thoroughbreds and Steven Bouchey’s Carson’s Run, winner of the bet365 Summer (G1) trained by Christophe Clement; Repole Stable’s Noted, runner-up in the Castle & Key Bourbon trained by Todd Pletcher; and Qatar Racing and Hunter Valley Farm’s First World War, fourth as the favorite in the Castle & Key Bourbon and winner of the Kitten’s Joy (G3) in February for trainer Brendan Walsh.

Aaron Kennedy, Toby Joseph and trainer Doug Anderson’s Glengarry, winner of the Bowman Mill Stakes at Keeneland last fall, tops a list of 28 nominees for the Lafayette.

Other nominees of note include Repole Stable’s Be You, third in the American Pharoah (G1) and fourth in the Hopeful (G1) for trainer Todd Pletcher, and Godolphin’s Nash, second in the Lecomte (G3) and winner of the March 23 Hot Springs Stakes for trainer Brad Cox.

Entries for opening day will be taken Monday, April 1.

Toyota Blue Grass leads five Saturday stakes

Sierra Leone wins the Risen Star in the slop punching his way to the head of the Kentucky Derby class, Hodges Photography
Sierra Leone wins the Risen Star in the slop punching his way to the head of the Kentucky Derby class. (Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.)

Opening Saturday of the Spring Meet will present 11 races, including five stakes: Toyota Blue Grass, $600,000 Resolute Racing Madison (G1), $400,000 Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association, $350,000 Shakertown (G2) and $300,000 Commonwealth (G3). 

A total of 114 3-year-olds were nominated to the milestone running of the 1 1/8-mile Toyota Blue Grass, including Peter Brant, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg, Brook Smith’s Risen Star (G2) winner, Sierra Leone.

Also nominated is Coolmore Fountain of Youth (G1) winner Dornoch, trained by Danny Gargan for West Paces Racing, R. A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Two Eight Racing and Pine Racing Stables.

The Toyota Blue Grass, the 10th race with a post time of 5:52 p.m., offers 200 points on a 100-50-25-15-10 scale to the first- through fifth-place finishers toward the 150th running of the $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve to be run at Churchill on May 4.

The 23rd running of the Resolute Racing Madison, for fillies and mares going 7 furlongs on the main track, drew 25 nominees. Headlining them is Pamela Ziebarth’s Sweet Azteca, winner of the recent Beholder Mile (G1) for trainer Michael McCarthy.

Other prominent nominees include the 1-2 finishers from last fall’s Lexus Raven Run (G2) here: Vahva and Alva Starr. Cherie DeVaux trains Vahva for a partnership headed by Belladonna Racing, Brett Brinkman trains Alva Starr for P. Dale Ladner.

Wise Racing’s undefeated Hard to Justify, who capped her 2023 campaign with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), headlines the 51 fillies nominated to the Appalachian Presented by Japan Racing Association. Hard to Justify is trained by Chad Brown.

Other notable nominees include Rigney Racing’s Buchu, winner of the Jessamine (G2) Presented by Keeneland November for trainer Phil Bauer; Resolute Racing’s Pounce, winner of the recent Herecomesthebride (G3) for trainer Mark Casse; and Repole Stable’s Life’s an Audible, runner-up to Hard to Justify in the Miss Grillo (G2) and to Pounce in the Herecomesthebride for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Big Invasion, winner of the Nearctic (G2) prior to finishing a fast-closing second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), tops a roster of 36 nominees to the Shakertown. Christophe Clement trains Big Invasion.

Among the other nominees are Sonata Stable’s Arzak, winner of last fall’s Woodford (G2) Presented by FanDuel at Keeneland for trainer Mike Trombetta; MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm’s Forbidden Kingdom, winner of the Joe Hernandez (G2) for trainer Richard Mandella; and Calumet Farm’s two-time graded stakes winner Gear Jockey, trained by Rusty Arnold.

The Commonwealth attracted 27 nominations headed by Nathan Hayden’s defending champion, Here Mi Song. He is trained by Billy Stinson Jr.

Other nominees of note include Spendthrift Farm’s Kingsbarns, winner of the 2023 Louisiana Derby (G2) for trainer Todd Pletcher; Susan Moulton’s Manny Wah, winner of the 2022 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland and now trained by Will Walden; and Andrew and Raina Warren’s Raise Cain, winner of the Perryville (L) at Keeneland last fall for trainer Ben Colebrook.

Entries for the April 6 program will be taken Tuesday, April 2.

MiddleGround Capital Beaumont, Palisades headline Sunday program

Candied winning the Darley Alcibiades. (Keeneland Photo)

Two stakes for 3-year-olds top the nine-race program for Sunday, April 7.

The 39th running of the $400,000 MiddleGround Capital Beaumont (G2) for fillies drew 31 nominations including aforementioned champion Just F Y I.

Run over the Beard Course of 7 furlongs, 184 feet, the MiddleGround Capital Beaumont nominee list also attracted Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Candied. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Candied won Keeneland’s Darley Alcibiades (G1) last fall before finishing third behind Just F Y I in the Breeders’ Cup.

The 18th running of the $250,000 Palisades (L) at 5½ furlongs on the grass drew 31 nominations. They include two colts who closed 2023 with solid showings at the Breeders’ Cup: My Boy Prince and No Nay Mets (IRE).

Gary Barber’s My Boy Prince finished third in the 1-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Trained by Mark Casse, he was runner-up to Carson’s Run in the Summer and posted daylight victories in two stakes at Woodbine.

Bregman Family Racing, WWBD LLC and Edge Racing’s No Nay Mets closed 2023 with a fourth-place finish as the favorite in the 5-furlong Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1). He is trained by George Weaver.

Entries for the April 7 program also will be taken Tuesday, April 2.

Prospective Stakes Fields

According to Keeneland Stakes Coordinator Jorie Beschizza, here are the prospective fields for the stakes on opening weekend of the Spring Meet:

Friday, April 5. Entries taken Monday, April 1.

$600,000 CENTRAL BANK ASHLAND (G1) – Halina’s Forte (trainer Phil Bauer), Impel (Brad Cox), Jody’s Pride (Jorge Abreu), Just F Y I (Bill Mott).

$400,000 TRANSYLVANIA (G3) PRESENTED BY KEENELAND SELECT – Depiction (Cherie DeVaux), First WorldWar (Brendan Walsh). Possible: Tennessee (Cox).

$400,000 LAFAYETTE – Bolt At Midnight (Mick Ruis Sr.), Doncho (Michelle Lovell), Glengarry (Doug Anderson).

Saturday, April 6. Entries taken Tuesday, April 2.

100TH RUNNING OF THE $1 MILLION TOYOTA BLUE GRASS (G1) – Dornoch (Danny Gargan), Encino (Cox), Epic Ride (John Ennis), Just a Touch (Cox), Seize the Grey (D. Wayne Lukas), Sierra Leone (Chad Brown).

Keeneland will have full coverage of the draw for post positions, including an early flash press release with a list of entries followed by a full advance release. 

Keeneland social media also will report the field of horses after the draw.

$600,000 RESOLUTE RACING MADISON (G1) – Alva Starr (Brett Brinkman), Big Pond (Tim Yakteen), Olivia Darling (Jorge Delgado), Red Carpet Ready (Rusty Arnold), Sterling Silver (Tom Albertrani), Vahva (DeVaux).

$400,000 APPALACHIAN (G2) PRESENTED BY JAPAN RACING ASSOCIATION – Austere (Brendan Walsh), Buchu (Bauer), Crown Imperial (John Ortiz), Mo Fox Givin (Leonard Powell).

$350,000 SHAKERTOWN (G2) – Arzak (Michael Trombetta), Beer Can Man (Phil D’Amato), Front Runthe Fed (Caio Caramori), Our Shot (John Terranova).

$300,000 COMMONWEALTH (G3) – Here Mi Song (Billy Stinson), Manny Wah (Will Walden), Minnesota Ready (Tom Amoss).

Sunday, April 7 races. Entries taken Tuesday, April 2.

$400,000 MIDDLEGROUND CAPITAL BEAUMONT (G2)  Chi Chi (Herman Wilensky). Possible: Legadema (Bauer), TipsyTammy (Bauer).

$250,000 PALISADES (L) – Works for Me (Joseph Lee). Possible: No Nay Mets (IRE) (George Weaver).

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