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Blue Grass, Ashland highlight Keeneland’s opening weekend

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Keeneland begins its 15-day spring meet Friday.

The $150,000 Grade 3 Transylvania will lead off a month featuring 16 stakes races worth more than $4.3 million and qualifiers for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks highlighting 15 graded events.

The marquee events on Saturday’s 11-race card with five stakes are the $1 million Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes and $500,000 Grade 1 Ashland, both of which award 170 points for the top four finishers toward the Derby on May 6 and Oaks for fillies on May 5.

Unbeaten McCraken is the 7-5 morning line favorite in a seven-horse field for the Blue Grass; Daddy’s Little Darling will lead the Ashland’s eight-horse field as the 5-2 choice.

Keeneland will race Wednesdays through Sundays during April with no racing on Easter Sunday, April 16.

American filly Lady Aurelia wins again at Royal Ascot

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ASCOT, England — American filly Lady Aurelia won at Royal Ascot for the second straight year, cruising to a three-length victory in the King’s Stand Stakes under replacement jockey John Velazquez on Tuesday.

“She’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse,” said trainer Wesley A. Ward after Lady Aurelia backed up her win in the Queen Mary Stakes in 2016.

Frankie Dettori was scheduled to ride Lady Aurelia, but pulled out of the entire meeting early Tuesday after failing to recover from an arm injury sustained when he was thrown off a horse in a parade ring last week.

Velazquez was drafted in and settled the U.S. horse into a good early position. Lady Aurelia took the lead with two furlongs to run and pulled away, winning the five-furlong race in 57.45 seconds, just short of a course record.

“This is wonderful for American racing,” said Ward, who has eight career winners at Ascot since 2009. Six of those wins have been by juveniles.

Ward has 10 entries at the prestigious meeting staged just outside London, as part of the largest contingent of U.S. runners – 14 – to compete at Royal Ascot.

Following the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II at the course ahead of the start of the meeting, racing was preceded by a minute’s silence in honor of the victims of attacks in Britain in recent weeks.

Royal Ascot to make to make U.S. Television debut

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STAMFORD, Conn. – NBCSN presents daily live coverage of the Royal Meeting in Ascot, Berkshire, England – one of the most prestigious horse racing meets in the world – beginning Tuesday, June 20, at 8:30 a.m. ET. NBCSN’s live coverage of the full five-day Royal meeting, Tuesday through Saturday, June 24, will air daily from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. ET — for a total of 22.5 coverage hours. This year’s coverage marks the U.S. television debut of the event.

Royal Ascot is one of the world’s most valuable horse racing events, attracting many of the world’s finest racehorses. The event features 30 races, including eight at the world championship “Group One” level. Five US‑based trainers are expected to field a total of 14 runners, headlined by Todd Pletcher, whose horses won the Kentucky Derby (Always Dreaming) and Belmont Stakes (Tapwrit) this year. Pletcher’s American Patriot runs in Tuesday’s Queen Anne Stakes.

The Royal Meeting is the center of the British social season and a pivotal week in the calendar of the Royal Family, who arrive every day by the world famous “Royal Procession” – with the first carriage carrying The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.