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Blue Grass, Ashland highlight Keeneland's spring stakes schedule

Keeneland will offer 16 stakes worth $3.625 million for its 2013 spring race meeting, headlined by the Grade 1 Blue Grass and Grade 1 Ashland, for colts and fillies, respectively, with classic aspirations.

The 16-day spring meeting will be held April 5-26, and features racing Wednesdays through Sundays. Post time for the first race each day is 1:05 p.m. (ET). Fifteen of the spring's 16 stakes are graded, highlighted by five Grade 1 events. Half of the stakes will be run on Polytrack and half contested on turf.

Anchoring the spring's opening week are the $500,000 Ashland, for three-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles on April 6, and the $750,000 Blue Grass, for three-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on April 13, both signature preps on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks and Road to the Kentucky Derby, respectively.

Last year, Dullahan defeated favored Hansen to become only the second horse to win Keeneland's Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity as a two-year-old and return the following spring to win the Blue Grass. Champion Round Table accomplished the feat in 1956-57.

Traditionally one of North America's richest and most diverse racing programs, the Keeneland spring meet attracts the country's top horses, trainers and jockeys. Among last spring's highlights: Keeneland-based Wise Dan, leading contender for Horse of the Year honors, kicked off his 2012 season with a record-setting, 10 1/2-length win in the Grade 3 Ben Ali; Eclipse Award finalist Groupie Doll won the Grade 1 Madison by three lengths; and Eclipse Award finalist Point of Entry notched his first stakes victory in the closing day Grade 2 Elkhorn.

"Keeneland is so special because the 'best of the best' from across the country converge here to compete against each other, and that makes for some very memorable racing moments," Vice President of Racing W.B. Rogers Beasley said.

In addition to the Ashland and Blue Grass, Keeneland will showcase many of the nation's top handicap horses in three other Grade 1 stakes -- the aforementioned Madison on April 11, for older fillies and mares going seven furlongs; the Maker's 46 Mile, on the turf April 12; and the Jenny Wiley, for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles over the turf on April 13.

The Grade 3, $200,000 Lexington, sending three-year-olds 1 1/16 miles in a second Keeneland prep on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, will be held April 20.

In a change, the $175,000 Commonwealth, held April 13 for older horses going seven furlongs, will carry Grade 3 status. The Commonwealth was previously a Grade 2.

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