The opening of the Keeneland spring meet each April signifies that spring has truly arrived in the Bluegrass State. The 16-day meeting at the historic racetrack is always action-packed with great live racing and a stellar stakes program. In addition, Keeneland traditionally offers a variety of special events to draw in guests and keep fans entertained throughout the day. This year’s meet, which runs Friday, Apr. 5 through Friday, Apr. 26, is no different and provides something for everyone.
The spring meeting boasts five Grade 1 (G1) events, two Grade 2 (G2) events, eight Grade 3 (G3) events, and one listed stakes. It starts with Friday’s $100,000 Transylvania Stakes (G3) for three-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. On Saturday, three-year-old fillies will vie in the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1), a 1 1/16 mile route over the Polytrack.
The highlight of the spring stakes schedule falls on Saturday, Apr. 13 when Keeneland hosts five stakes races, including the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (G1) for three-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on the Polytrack. This race offers 100 points to the winner in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system which replaced graded earnings as the determining factor for Kentucky Derby entries. Also among the day’s stakes action is the Commonwealth (G3) for four-year-olds and up, the Shakertown (G3) turf sprint for four-year-olds and up, the Madison (G1) for fillies and mares four years old and up, and the Jenny Wiley (G1), also for fillies and mares four years old and up.
Other stakes throughout the meet include the Maker’s 46 mile (G1) (Apr. 12), the Beaumont Presented Keeneland Select (G2 ) (Apr. 14), the Appalachian (G3) (Apr. 18), the Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3) (Apr. 19), the Giant’s Causeway (L) (Apr. 20), the Coolmore Lexington (G3) (Apr. 20), the Ben Ali (G3) (Apr. 21), the Bewitch (G3) (Apr. 25), and the Elkhorn (G2) (Apr. 26).
Opening Day on Friday offers an array of special events at Keeneland, including College Scholarship Day, the Vineyard Vines trunk show, the Forme’ Millinery designer hat trunk show, the $200,000-guaranteed Pick 4 Presented by TVG, and Friday Happy Hour in the Mezzanine Bar.
The $200,000-guaranteed Pick 4 Presented by TVG and Friday Happy Hour in the Mezzanine Bar will continue through the first three Fridays of the meet. The pick 4 is offered on races 7-10. Happy Hour boasts live music and simulcast wagering at the Mezzanine Bar after the final live race.
Saturdays are special at Keeneland too. Start the day with Sunrise Trackside with Breakfast With the Works beginning at 7:00 a.m. As the horses train in the morning, enjoy a Southern-style breakfast and trackside commentary on horses working that morning. Special family events continue with children’s activities, an equine-related demonstration in the paddock at 8:45 a.m., walking tours from 8:30 – 10:30 a.m., photos with bugler George “Bucky” Sallee in the paddock from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., trackside handicapping at 11:30 a.m., and a Q&A session with a Keeneland jockey in the paddock at 12:05 p.m.
Saturdays also offer Tailgating on “The Hill.” The tailgate lot is located next to the Keene Barn and the Entertainment Center. Jumbo TV screens, wireless wagering and wagering terminals, race programs, and food trucks will keep guests involved in the races while relaxing with friends. The Bluegrass Collective (Apr. 6), Laurel River Line (Apr. 13), and Town Mountain (Apr. 20) are part of the Best of Bluegrass concert series that will be held on The Hill throughout the meet.
On Blue Grass Stakes day America’s Best Racing will invade The Hill with its ABRV Tour. America’s Best Racing’s six cross-country brand ambassadors will provide fun and entertaining activities to introduce new fans and educate all fans in the sport of horse racing.
Additional special events of interest throughout the meet include the Maker’s Mark commemorative Dan Issel bottle signing (Apr. 12); the Keeneland Double on Blue Grass Stakes day in which fans can park at Commonwealth Stadium, take a Lextran to the track for a $1 and then pay another $1 to return to the stadium for UK’s Blue-White scrimmage football game later that night; Horses and Hope Pink Day (Apr. 14); the Budweiser Clydesdales (Apr. 17-20); jockey autograph session (Apr. 19); Military Appreciation Day Presented by Windstream (Apr. 21); United Way Day (Apr. 24); TVG Hat Giveaway (Apr. 25); and Concert on the Lawn featuring Changes in Latitude, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band (Apr. 26). To see the full calendar of events and learn more about the events mentioned above, visit the Keeneland website .
Keeneland is located at 4201 Versailles Road in Lexington, Ky. Gates open at 11 a.m. with the first daily post at 1:05 p.m. Admission is $5 and children 12 and under are free. The track is dark on Mondays and Tuesdays. An ongoing construction project on US60/Versailles Road may cause some delays in and around the track. Construction updates can be found on the Keeneland website  or the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Twitter account @VersaillesRoad.
Photo: Keeneland Photo