(Trainer Ken McPeek has Shimmering Allure in G1 Ashland Stakes / Coady Photography)

From the Keeneland Media Team:

SHIMMERING ALLURE GIVES MCPEEK CHANCE TO TIE RECORD IN CENTRAL BANK ASHLAND

Trainer Kenny McPeek is no stranger to the $600,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1), which will be run for the 87th time on Friday’s opening day of the Keeneland Spring Meet. A regular at the Central Bank Ashland entry box, McPeek has won the race three times and has had the runner-up in four of the past seven editions.

McPeek will be represented in the 1 1/16-mile race this year by Walking L Thoroughbreds’ Shimmering Allure, who finished third in the Busanda Stakes on Jan. 24 at Aqueduct in her most recent start. If victorious, she will become McPeek’s fourth winner of Keeneland’s signature spring race for 3-year-old fillies and tie him with Racing Hall of Famer Woody Stephens as the winningest Ashland trainer.

After taking his initial Ashland with Take Charge Lady in 2002, McPeek saddled Rosalind to finish in a dead heat for victory with Room Service in 2014 and won with Defining Purpose last year.

This year’s renewal could have a similar scenario as 2023 when Defining Purpose – at odds of 20-1 – faced champion 2-year-old filly Wonder Wheel, who finished off the board as the favorite. On Friday, Shimmering Allure is 10-1 on the morning line. Her seven rivals include 2023 champion Just F Y I, who will be making her 3-year-old debut.

“It is a similar setup,” McPeek said. “We put together a plan with this filly. We rested her similar to what we did with Defining Purpose, and we will be coming in to take our best shot.”

Shimmering Allure was part of McPeek’s New York division when she raced at Aqueduct, where she won the Tempted (L) on Nov. 5. She was second in the Demoiselle (G2) on Dec. 2 prior to the Busanda.

“I thought she ran a little flat in the Busanda, kind of reminiscent of Defining Purpose in her race before the Ashland,” McPeek said. “So we gave her more time to mature, and she has done that.”

Shimmering Allure will be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. in the Central Bank Ashland and start from post 5 in the field of eight.

McPeek could become the first trainer to twice win the Central Bank Ashland and $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) in the same season. In 2002, when he won the Ashland with Take Charge Lady, he sent out Harlan’s Holiday to win the Toyota Blue Grass.

His starter in this year’s Toyota Blue Grass is Walking L Thoroughbreds’ Lat Long.

 

NEW YEAR, NEW GAME PLAN FOR RAISE CAIN

A year ago, Andrew and Rania Warren’s Raise Cain was fresh off a victory in the Gotham (G3) and on the Kentucky Derby trail, which included a fifth-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass (G1).

On Saturday, Raise Cain again will participate on the Toyota Blue Grass card. The Ben Colebrook trainee will begin his 2024 campaign in the 37th running of the $300,000 Commonwealth (G3) going 7 furlongs on the main track.

“He is doing great and has progressed well from age 3 to 4,” Colebrook said on a chilly Thursday morning as Raise Cain galloped in front of the Grandstand. “We’re back home now.”

A troubled eighth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve, Raise Cain continued running in two-turn races through the summer and early fall before Colebrook cut him back to 7 furlongs in the Perryville (L) here in October.

The result was a head victory under Luis Saez, who will be aboard Saturday and exit post 4 in the nine-horse Commonwealth.

“I think he can go two turns, but he is pace dependent,” Colebrook said. “Going one turn, he can sit back and finish better.”

After the Perryville, Raise Cain received a short vacation and then ventured west to Santa Anita for the Malibu (G1) on Dec. 26 in which he finished fifth.

“That’s a stallion-making race, but it was a nightmare getting there,” Colebrook said. “There were no planes and we had to van out there and then they couldn’t train a couple days because of weather.”

A good performance here Saturday could be a springboard to the $1 million Churchill Downs (G1) Presented by Ford on May 4.

“That would be the obvious spot if he runs well,” Colebrook said. “I never could win the Commonwealth with Limousine Liberal because it was always his first race back (his seasonal debut), but then he ran well at Churchill.”

Limousine Liberal ran third in the 2017 Commonwealth and second in the 2018 running before going on to win the Churchill Downs four weeks later in both years.

HISTORIC LEXINGTON BOWL PART
OF TOYOTA BLUE GRASS CELEBRATION

The Lexington Bowl, a priceless link to the history of the Turf in Central Kentucky, will make an appearance Saturday for the 100th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1). The winning connections will see the historic piece on display in the Directors Room for their celebration.

Part of Keeneland Library’s collection, the Lexington Bowl dates from 1854 when it was manufactured by the local silversmith firm Garner & Winchester to be presented to Dr. Elisha Warfield by the citizens of Lexington to honor the great Lexington, a horse he bred who was the finest runner of his day and became a 16-time leading sire. Warfield, a physician, owned The Meadows farm, which bordered the Kentucky Association track near downtown Lexington. He had been a founding member of the Kentucky Association in 1826.

After Warfield’s death in 1859, daughter Mary Jane Warfield Clay (wife of Cassius Marcellus Clay) inherited the Lexington Bowl. It passed to her son Brutus J. Clay II. Clay died in 1932, leaving the bowl to his daughter, Mrs. Edward D. Johnson. During the early winter of 1937, Clay’s widow, Lalla Rookh Fish Marsteller, purchased the bowl from her stepdaughter.

The Blue Grass Stakes, named for the famous Bluegrass region of Central Kentucky, was inaugurated in 1911 at the Kentucky Association track. The race was run there through 1914 and again from 1919-1926.

With the demise of the Kentucky Association track, a group of prominent area Thoroughbred breeders were busy working to return Thoroughbred racing to Lexington and national importance. In 1935, they founded the Keeneland Association, purchased land from horseman J.O. “Jack” Keene and set out to open a model race track. Keeneland opened Oct. 15, 1936, for nine days of racing. In April 1937, Keeneland held its inaugural Spring Meet of 11 days and ran the Blue Grass for the first time on April 29.

The winner of the first Blue Grass here was Fencing, who won by three-quarters of a length over the favored duo of Billionaire and Brooklyn, who were noses apart for second.

Meanwhile, Thoroughbred Record announced the Lexington Bowl had been purchased by “three nationally known sportsmen, who asked their names be withheld” to be used as a presentation trophy beginning in 1937 for the winning owner of the first Blue Grass at Keeneland. (The buyers likely were industry stalwarts Arnold Hanger, whose purchase of a collection of books about the Turf led to the creation of Keeneland Library; John Hay “Jock” Whitney; and future Keeneland President Louis Lee Haggin II.)

The names of the Blue Grass winners were etched onto the Lexington Bowl as of 1937, and Keeneland used the piece as a presentation trophy from 1937-1952. In 1953, the track instituted gold juleps and no longer presented the Lexington Bowl.

Keeneland never had duplicates of the Lexington Bowl made for winning owners to keep, but at least two prominent owners commissioned replicas for their personal trophy collections. Lucille Parker Wright (Markey) of Calumet Farm and Elizabeth Arden of Maine Chance Farm both commissioned Tiffany & Co. to create replicas for their respective Blue Grass winners: Bull Lea (1938) and Lord Boswell (1946).

Today fans can admire the Lexington Bowl on display at Keeneland Library, which is recognizing the milestone running of the Toyota Blue Grass at its free exhibit, A Rite of Spring: The 100th Running of the Blue Grass Stakes. The exhibit features photographs that capture race highlights curated from Keeneland Library collections and public submissions from professional and amateur photographers along with memorabilia from noted jockeys Bill Shoemaker, Mike Manganello and Chris Antley and celebrated runners Whirlaway, Riva Ridge, Spectacular Bid and Strike the Gold.

Open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Library is located on the Keeneland campus. Enter Keeneland at Gate 1 on Keeneland Blvd. and take the first right on Entertainment Ct. The Library is to the left of the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center.

FIELD SET FOR 100TH RUNNING OF $1 MILLION TOYOTA BLUE GRASS

Peter Brant, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg and Brook Smith’s Sierra Leone is the 2-1 morning line favorite in a field of 11 3-year-olds entered in Saturday’s 100th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1).

Contested at 1 1/8 miles over the main track, the Toyota Blue Grass is the 10th race on the 11-race program with a 5:52 p.m. ET post time. First post Saturday is 1 p.m.

Here is the field:

Post Horse Trainer Jockey Morning Line Odds
1 Top Conor Chad Brown Jose Ortiz 15-1
2 Be You Todd Pletcher Irad Ortiz Jr. 8-1
3 Seize the Grey D. Wayne Lukas Nik Juarez 20-1
4 Dornoch Danny Gargan Luis Saez 3-1
5 Good Money Chad Brown Javier Castellano 20-1
6 Just a Touch Brad Cox Florent Geroux 7-2
7 Lat Long Kenny McPeek Brian Hernandez Jr. 30-1
8 Epic Ride John Ennis Adam Beschizza 20-1
9 Mugatu Jeff Engler Joe Talamo 30-1
10 Sierra Leone Chad Brown Tyler Gaffalione 2-1
11 Encino Brad Cox Flavien Prat 12-1

All starters carry 123 pounds.

PROSPECTIVE FIELDS FOR UPCOMING STAKES

April 12 races. Entries taken Friday.

$600,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) – Integration (trainer Shug McGaughey), Master of The Seas (IRE) (Charlie Appleby), Naval Power (GB) (Appleby), Shirl’s Speight (Roger Attfield).

$250,000 FanDuel Limestone (L) – Amidst Waves (George Weaver), Crimson Advocate (Weaver), Kodiac Wintergreen (IRE) (Rusty Arnold), Pipsy (IRE) (Will Walden), Zoe’s Prime (Jose Camejo).

 

 

April 13 races. Entries taken Saturday.

$600,000 Jenny Wiley (G1) – Didia (Ignacio Correas IV), Embrace Me (Tom Albertrani), English Rose (IRE) (Appleby), Evvie Jets (Mertkan Kantarmaci), Olivia Maralda (IRE) (Walden), Walkathon (Ian Wilkes).

$400,000 Stonestreet Lexington (G3) – Dilger (IRE) (Saffie Joseph Jr.), Secret Chat (Roderick Rodriguez).

$300,000 Giant’s Causeway (G3) – Elm Drive (Phil D’Amato), Love Reigns (IRE) (Wesley Ward), Secret Money (Brendan Walsh), Shootoutthelights (Ward). Possible: Oeuvre (Chris Block).

OPENING WEEK SPECIAL EVENTS

Throughout the Spring Meet, special events and activities will continue Keeneland’s historic mission to support the Central Kentucky community and the Thoroughbred industry. They include:

Year-round

Official Keeneland Tours. Click here for availability and to purchase.

Through Aug. 16

Keeneland Library is recognizing this year’s historic running of the Toyota Blue Grass at its free exhibit, A Rite of Spring: The 100th Running of the Blue Grass Stakes. The exhibit features photographs that capture race highlights curated from Keeneland Library collections and public submissions from professional and amateur photographers along with memorabilia from noted jockeys Bill Shoemaker, Mike Manganello and Chris Antley and celebrated runners Whirlaway, Riva Ridge, Spectacular Bid and Strike the Gold.

Open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Library is located on the Keeneland campus. Enter Keeneland at Gate 1 on Keeneland Blvd. and take the first right on Entertainment Ct. The Library is to the left of the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center.

 

Thursday, April 4

Central Bank Thursday Night Live. Keeneland will kick off the Spring Meet with a celebration of the 100th Toyota Blue Grass, including a promotion of Keeneland Library’s exhibit about the race and handicapping tips from BETologists. The event, which includes beverages, food, art and live music, takes place from 5-8 p.m. at Fifth Third Pavilion in Tandy Park in downtown Lexington.

 

Friday, April 5 through Sunday, April 7

The Hill. Keeneland’s popular tailgating area will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the Spring Meet, weather permitting. No ticket or reservation is required for The Hill, located adjacent to the Keene Barn & Entertainment Center and accessible via Gate 1 (at Man o’ War Blvd.) or Gate 4 (off Van Meter Road on the east side of Keeneland).

Fans on The Hill can watch the racing action via a jumbo TV and place their bets in a wagering tent while they enjoy live music presented by The Burl, food trucks and handicapping assistance from BETologists. Complimentary shuttles to the track are offered.

For fans who want to elevate their experience, Keeneland again is partnering with RevelXP to offer tailgate packages for groups of any size. RevelXP will organize tailgates by furnishing a designated tent, catering, amenities and more. Visit Keeneland.com/tailgating for full details.

The Hill is open from 8 a.m. to 60 minutes after the last race. Amenities are available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Keeneland Shop is open from 9 a.m. to 30 minutes following the final race. Milliners Corner, featuring Christine A. Moore (April 5-7), Wagering Central and Finish Line locations are open race days. On April 5, Draper James will be located just inside the North Grandstand entrance from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Saturday, April 6

 

Sunrise Trackside. This free Saturday morning program from 8-10 a.m. is geared toward families and offers a unique view of Thoroughbreds during training hours. Fans can enjoy coffee and donuts at the Starting Gate concession stand while watchinghorses train. Children’s activities on the first floor of the Grandstand will include a visit with Keeneland mascot Buckles, face painting and games. Mini tours will be available at the Welcome Stand near the Paddock.

The John Deere Tractor Break will take place during the renovation period on the main track from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and include a drawing for a kid’s tractor from John Deere/Meade Tractor. The April 6 Sunrise Trackside will feature the appearance of two-time champion Goodnight Olive in the Paddock between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. On April 6 and 13, a meet and greet with a horse from the Life Adventure Center of Versailles, Kentucky, will be offered in the Walking Ring from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Jockey Autograph Signing. Fans will meet active and retired Keeneland riders and Hall of Famers in an event that benefits the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF). Hats, goggles and autograph books that can be signed will be available for purchase; personal items and commemorative Toyota Blue Grass poster may be signed with a donation to PDJF. The event will take place in the North Terrace from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.