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.

Stradivarius, 3-time Ascot Gold Cup winner, retired to stud

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LONDON – Stradivarius, one of the most famous racehorses in Britain and Ireland after winning the Gold Cup at Ascot three times, has been retired to stud.

Bjorn Nielsen, the owner of Stradivarius, said he felt it would be unfair to make the horse come back next season as a 9-year-old after time away with a bruised foot.

“It has been a fairytale from start to finish,” Nielsen told British newspaper The Racing Post.

Stradivarius, bred in Ireland and the son of Sea The Stars, won 20 of his 35 races – including seven Group One races – and earned almost 3.5 million pounds (now $3.8 million) in prize money.

Stradivarius won four Goodwood Cups, three Yorkshire Cups and two Doncaster Cups.

Taiba wins $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert

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BENSALEM, Pa. – Taiba won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by three lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Taiba ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.67 and paid $4.80, $3 and $2.60.

It was Baffert’s fourth win in the Grade 1 event at Parx Racing. He also won in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Smith won the race for the third time, all aboard Baffert horses.

Zandon returned $3.80 and $2.60. Cyberknife was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $3 to show.

Taiba was coming off a second-place finish in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in July. The colt was 12th in the Kentucky Derby under Tim Yakteen, who took over training him while Baffert was serving a 90-day suspension.

“He had a little bit of a rough trip in the Haskell, but we had some time to get him ready for this one,” Baffert said from his base in California. “He proved today he is a good horse. He is getting better and better.”

Baffert Taiba will be pointed toward the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. The colt has three wins in five starts this year.