12/11/2007 12:00AM

Keeneland spring stakes a record $4.3 million

EmailKeeneland Race Course on Tuesday released the stakes schedule for its 2008 spring meet with little variation from recent years but with a record total of $4.3 million in purses.

Sixteen of the 18 spring stakes at the Lexington, Ky., track are graded races, including four Grade 1 events. The highlight, as usual, will be the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes, to be run April 12.

The only changes, and they are minor ones, involve raises in graded status, purse hikes, altered distances, and date changes.

The Maker's Mark Mile was recently upgraded from a Grade 2 to a Grade 1 by the American Graded Stakes Committee, while the Elkhorn Stakes has gone from a Grade 3 to a Grade 2, and the Appalachian, previously ungraded, now will carry a Grade 3 ranking.

The Maker's Mark has undergone the largest purse hike, from $250,000 to $300,000, while three races have been increased from $100,000 to $125,000: the Appalachian, Shakertown, and Doubledogdare.

The traditional meet-opener, the Transylvania Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf, has been lengthened from a mile to 1 1/16 miles. Also, the Appalachian and Ben Ali will be run a week earlier than usual, on April 17 and 20, respectively.

The 16-day meet runs from April 4 to 25. Per-day purses are expected to be comparable with the 2007 spring meet, when the daily average was nearly $642,000.