Updated on 12/08/2014 11:11AM

Keeneland moves Blue Grass Stakes date, raises purse to $1 million


The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Racecourse will be moved to a date four weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby and its purse will be raised to $1 million for the 2015 running, the track announced late on Friday.

The Blue Grass will anchor the April 4 card on opening weekend this year, as part of a five-stakes lineup, including two other Grade 1 races, the Ashland, a prep for the Kentucky Oaks, and the Madison. Two other major Derby preps, the Santa Anita Derby in Southern California and the Wood Memorial in New York, are scheduled for the same date, and the three races are expected to be packaged into one live television broadcast.

The Blue Grass has been held three weeks prior to the Derby since 1989, when it was moved to that spot from its traditional location nine days prior to the Derby. In recent years, however, horsemen have increasingly come to rely on more time between starts, especially for stakes-caliber horses. That trend led the operators of Aqueduct to move the Wood Memorial to a spot four weeks prior to the Derby 10 years ago.

Keeneland has been fighting perceptions of the decline of the relevance of the Blue Grass Stakes as a Derby prep for five years, based on the track’s decision to install an artificial surface in 2006. Critics of the surface said that horses were not well-prepared to run in the Derby if they competed at Keeneland in the Blue Grass in their final prep, even though the 2007 Derby winner, Street Sense, ran in the Blue Grass, and the 2011 Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, trained over Keeneland’s artificial surface and had his final prep over Turfway’s artificial track.

The purse of the Blue Grass was $750,000 last year.

“By moving the Toyota Blue Grass up a week on the calendar, to be a month before the Kentucky Derby, and elevating the purse to a million dollars, we further enhance its stature as a nationally prominent classic prep,” said Rogers Beasley, Keeneland’s vice president of racing, in a statement. “The coupling of these two Keeneland icons – the Blue Grass and the Ashland – will make for a spectacular day of racing and give fans the opportunity to see top Derby and Oaks contenders.”

Also on the April 4 card will be the Grade 3 Commonwealth and the Grade 3 Shakertown.

The move of the Blue Grass will leave only the Arkansas Derby as a major Derby prep three weeks prior to the race. It’s unlikely that Oaklawn Park would move the race now that it is the only option on the calendar for that weekend and because the track has already scheduled the prep races that lead up to its own derby.

Keeneland’s other Derby prep, the Grade 3 Lexington – which has been used by some horses as a last-ditch attempt to gain points or earnings for Derby eligibility – will be held on April 11, in the spot where the Blue Grass used to be. In recent years, the Lexington has been held two weeks prior to the Derby.


ML NJ More than 1 year ago
Bad News for this out-of-towner. It's tough to make the trip for only three days of racing. And the weather is already dicey in Lexington three weeks before the Derby. I'll probably be rooting for snow. Plus Saturday is the Semi-Final round of the Men's NCAA Basketball Championship. This is truly a bonehead move.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Well those who no longer wish to run on the hard main track at Gulfstream can head up to Keeneland after the Fountain of Youth to run in the Blue Grass. That is if they choose to by pass Oaklawn.
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Very good observation Pagani and my eye will be on that group of horses.
Brandon Layer More than 1 year ago
The Spiral at Turfway should be awesome this year being the only race on a synthetic track that guarantees you a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
This to me sends the WRONG message. If I were at Churchill, I'd be pushing other tracks to go back to the OLD way of having ALL of the final preps TWO weeks before the Derby and the penultimate round of preps FOUR weeks before, with other preps SIX and EIGHT weeks out and make it so there are bonus points for racing in ALL FOUR rounds of preps. The idea would be to end the "babying" of horses that to me is responsible for MANY of the injuries we have seen in recent years, much like we have seen with arm injuries in baseball from pitchers who are "babied" in much the same way. Yes, it would potentially mean for a horse to win the Triple Crown, such would have to race seven times in 13 weeks, however, this would be part of an overall scheme to force changes in the way horses are bred by making them bred for soundness, durability and stamina as opposed to speed and precociousness as well as make it so the top horses race 15-17 times a year like they used to. Doing this long term would help make for sounder horses who have developed more like horses once did and help weed out those not able to withstand the rigors of that kind of a schedule, strengthening the breed as a whole.
Matthew Hood More than 1 year ago
Why would Aqueduct, Oaklawn, GP, etc...care what Churchill thinks? These tracks make decisions to help themselves, not what would help Churchill run a certain kind of KY Derby.
Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
This is more about an overall scheme that would make it so top horses race more often, which benefits everyone (not just CD) in the long run.
john g More than 1 year ago
This is what the locals have been screaming for years for Keenland to do, switch back to dirt, move back the Bluegrass, and raise the purse of the Bluegrass. All of this now makes the Bluegrass Stakes one of the top Ky. Derby preps in the country. And, while critics will point out how many Bluegrass winners have won the Derby? But there has been quite many hit the board and come very close. Finally, great move Keenland.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Love the switch back to dirt and it's never a bad idea to raise the purse to lure more horses. I'm not concerned about the 3 preps competing against one another on that first Saturday in April, because all these races have been pulling nice fields the past few years. Moving out one more week won't matter and will definitely make for a nice package for NBC.
Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
It will make a nice package for NBC that I would push for to be from 7:00-9:00 PM ET with the Wood at 7:25 PM, the Blue Grass at 8:05 and the Santa Anita Derby with an 8:45 PM ET post. That would be the kind of show to get more of "The Millenials" on board.
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
You really do want night racing don't you? So Tivo the races and set your alarm clock. And what's with the love for NBC?
Chas More than 1 year ago
The first Saturday is now going to be a heck of a race day for preps for the Derby...full fields for all three as they are big time point races...and the Lexington now becomes a key late race for the Derby...the new guy running Keeneland certainly is understanding how to run a track and racing schedule...
Brandon Layer More than 1 year ago
This would be a brilliant move for Keeneland. If the Blue Grass is moved to 4 weeks out from the Derby then the Fountain of Youth, Risen Star, Gotham, Tampa Bay Derby and Rebel could all be used as preps for the Blue Grass. It would be the best prep there is for the Derby again. Now lets boost that purse up to $1 million.
Tom Temple More than 1 year ago
Mr. Layer - if you bothered to read the article you would have seen that they did, indeed, raise the purse to $1 Million.
Tom Temple More than 1 year ago
.....and you wanted to be my latex salesman.....
Tom Temple More than 1 year ago
Keeneland moves Blue Grass Stakes date, raises purse to $1 million
Brandon Layer More than 1 year ago
You do know this was all my idea right?
Tom Temple More than 1 year ago
Yes, I do remember your posting suggesting this, however, my idea was for the track to go back to dirt instead of that awful substitution.
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
It hasn't been several decades with the current schedule. In 1987, alysheba ran in the bluegrass just nine days before winning the derby. How come the horsemen and the DRF are afraid to mention the use of LASIX is the reason to reschedule ? Now the horsemen need three times as much time off.
Laura Pugh More than 1 year ago
Yes, lets deplete the fields even more, even if it means depleting your own talent pool. Chances were the field would have drawn better this year, due to the surface switch. But this should negate that completely.
Barbara Bowen More than 1 year ago
Doesn't affect much really. The west coast horses will stay home as they usually do for SA Derby, although the BG date and surface change will impact the Wood in NY some. On the other hand, they are all scrambling for Derby points with the point system, so everyone will be looking for easiest spot. A big horse in either race will send the others scurrying to the other race.
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Gives the Trainers another option as to where to Train and run after the Fountain of Youth.