The Month Ahead: April 2013
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Spring has sprung and the upcoming April racing schedule is packed with an exciting assortment of track openings and big-time stakes races. By the end of the month, the fields will be set for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, and the biggest weekend of racing will be nearly upon us.

This month will feature a total of 11 qualifying points races for the Kentucky /races/kentucky-derby/2013-kentucky-derby-prep-schedule/ and Oaks. Eight of these races will award 100 points to the winner, guaranteeing a spot in the big races. The major players on the first weekend in May will likely make a start in one of the graded stakes for 3-year-olds in April. For those looking for their Derby or Oaks horse, this is the time to start watching and paying close attention.

In addition to all the great racing, a few of North America’s most prestigious tracks will open for business. Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky will play host to 15 graded stakes and five Grade 1 races during its three-week meet starting on April 5. 2, Pimlico Race Course, and 2, the locations for the three Triple Crown races in May and June, will open their spring meets this month. Out west, Santa Anita will close after its long winter meet, and racing will move to Hollywood Park. In the great Northwest, Emerald Downs in Auburn, Washington opens for business. And in Florida, Calder Race Course opens for its meeting in South Florida.

It’s time to kick off your snow shoes and find a Derby hat…April is here and the racing is going to be great this month!

Week 1

April 4
Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland starts its spring meet. The big day at Pimlico comes May 18 with the running of the Preakness Stakes.

April 5
One of the crown jewels of North American racetracks, Keeneland, begins its three-week spring meeting in Lexington, Kentucky. The Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf will be the first of 15 graded stakes races at Keeneland this month.

April 6
The last big day of racing at New York’s Aqueduct Racetrack will be headlined by the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes for 3-year-olds. The winner earns 100 qualifying points towards the Kentucky Derby. The favorite individual betting choice in two of the three Kentucky Derby future pools, Verrazano, is expected to start. The Wood is one of five graded stakes on the day The Grade 1 Carter Handicap for older horses at 7 furlongs will be on the bill, along with the Grade 3 Bay Shore, a sprint for 3-year-olds. The fillies and mares will have the Grade 2 Gazelle Stakes for 3-year-olds and the Grade 2 Ruffian Handicap for older females. With 100 points to the winner of the Gazelle, the first-place finisher will earn a berth in the Kentucky Oaks

Santa Anita Park hosts two 100-point qualifying races for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks with the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. The Santa Anita Derby is shaping up as a tough 3-year-old prep with graded stakes winners Flashback, Hear the Ghost, Super Ninety Nine, and Goldencents all expected to start. Last year’s 2-year-old filly champion, Beholder, is among the probables for the Santa Anita Oaks. The Grade 2 Potero Grande for sprinters and the Grade 3 Providencia for 3-year-old fillies on the turf will also be part of the big day of racing in southern California.

Keeneland will have the first Grade 1 of its meet with the Ashland Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The winner of the Ashland earns 100 qualifying points towards the Kentucky Oaks.

Calder Race Course in South Florida will open for its extended summer meeting of 129 racing days.

Week 2

April 10
Oaklawn Park has a big Wednesday feature with the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Champion 3-year-olds Rachel Alexandra and Blind Luck won the Fantasy in 2009 and 2010 respectively. This year’s race is the last 100-point qualifying race of the year for the Kentucky Oaks.

April 12
A rare Friday doubleheader of Grade 1 stakes races kicks off two huge weekends of racing in Lexington, Kentucky and Hot Springs, Arkansas. The first of the Grade 1 races is the Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland. Wise Dan, the reigning Horse of the Year, is expected to make his 2013 debut in the 1-mile turf event. The second Grade 1 of the day is the Apple Blossom Handicap for older females at Oaklawn Park. Two of the last three editions of the Apple Blossom have been won by Horses of the Year: Zenyatta (2010) and Havre de Grace (2011).

April 13
Keeneland and Oaklawn Park will card a total of eight graded stakes, including two of the final 100-point qualifying races for the Kentucky Derby. The Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes and the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby are the final opportunities for colts to earn significant points towards the Derby. The winner of the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, Will Take Charge, is expected to start at Keeneland. Oxbow, with the recently “un-retired” Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens in the saddle, is likely to run in the Arkansas Derby.

The undercard for the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland includes two additional Grade 1 races, the Jenny Wiley Stakes for older turf fillies and the Madison Stakes, for filly and mare sprinters. Last year’s winner of the Jenny Wiley, Daisy Devine, is expected to try to repeat in this year’s edition. The Grade 3 Commonwealth for older horses at 7 furlongs and the Grade 3 Shakertown for turf sprinters round out a huge day of racing in Lexington.

In addition to the Arkansas Derby, the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap for older horses is expected to include Fort Larned, winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Oaklawn Park will also have the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap for older sprinters.

The final graded stakes of the Aqueduct meet, the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap, is a 6-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares.

Santa Anita Park hosts the Grade 3 Las Cienegas Stakes, a sprint race over their unique downhill turf course.

April 14
Keeneland Race Course has the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The Beaumont is the last chance to earn qualifying points towards the Kentucky Oaks. With just 34 total points going to the top four finishers, it will be an opportunity for fillies who only need a few points to earn a spot in the Oaks.

Week 3

April 18-19
Thursday at Keeneland starts a string of four straight days of graded stakes with the Grade 3 Appalachian Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf. Friday’s feature will be the Grade 3 Doubledogdare for older fillies and mares on the turf.

April 19
Emerald Downs in Auburn, Washington opens for its six-month meeting.

April 20
The Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday will be a late opportunity to pick up Derby qualifying points. The Lexington will earn the winner only 20 points, but it will be a chance for colts who are just outside the top 20 to make one last push to make the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

A purse of $1.5 million will be up for grabs in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic in West Virginia. The two-time winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, Game On Dude, is expected to make the trip from California to run for the huge purse in Charles Town.

Santa Anita has a doubleheader of stakes races on the final Saturday of its meet: the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap for fillies and mares on the turf and the Grade 3 San Simeon, a turf sprint for older horses on the downhill course.

Woodbine Race Course in Toronto, Ontario, Canada opens for the 2013 meeting of 133 racing days.

April 21
The Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes is for older horses over the Keeneland Polytrack. Wise Dan, the reigning Horse of the Year, won his first start of the year in the 2012 Ben Ali.

The Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano at 1-3/4 miles over the turf will be the final graded stakes of the long winter meeting at Santa Anita Park.

Week 4

April 25
The historic Atlantic City Race Course opens for its abbreviated seven-day race meeting in Mays Landing, New Jersey.

April 25
The final Thursday of the month will have two opening days on opposite ends of the country. Hollywood Park in California and Belmont Park in New York will open for their spring meetings. The highlight of the Belmont meet will be the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes on June 8.

The penultimate day of the Keeneland spring meeting will have the 1-1/2 miles Grade 3 Bewitch Stakes on the turf for fillies and mares.

Closing day at Keeneland has the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes, a 1-1/2 miles race over the turf.

April 27
The Grade 3 Westchester Stakes for older horses on the dirt will headline the first Saturday of racing at Belmont Park.

Churchill Downs opens for its spring meeting and headlines opening day with the Grade 3 Derby Trial Stakes for 3-year-old colts. The 1-mile race is the final points qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby but offers only 20 points to the winner.

Two Grade 3 1-mile races will top race cards in California and Texas. Golden Gate Fields has the San Francisco Mile on the turf and Lone Star Park has the Texas Mile Stakes over the dirt.

April 28
The final Sunday of April brings the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap for fillies and mares over the Hollywood Park turf course.

Woodbine has the first stakes of its meeting with the Grade 3 Whimsical Stakes for female sprinters going 6 furlongs.

Good luck playing the races during a great month for racing!

Full Schedule of April Stakes Races

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