A Rite of Spring: The 100th Running of the Blue Grass Stakes

This virtual gallery is an online companion to A Rite of Spring: The 100th Running of the Blue Grass Stakes, an exhibit curated and hosted by Keeneland Library from April 1 through August 16, 2024.

A Rite of Spring: The 100th Running of the Blue Grass Stakes features photographs that capture race highlights over the decades displayed alongside memorabilia from notable jockeys Bill Shoemaker, Mike Manganello, and Chris Antley, and celebrated runners such as Whirlaway, Riva Ridge, Spectacular Bid, and Strike the Gold. The exhibit’s photographs, curated from Keeneland Library collections and public submissions from professional and amateur photographers, spotlight some of the greatest moments of the time-honored spring stakes.

Named after Kentucky’s picturesque Bluegrass region to showcase its legacy as the breeding ground for exceptional racehorses, the Blue Grass Stakes was inaugurated at the Kentucky Association racetrack in 1911. The track, which stood in what is now Lexington’s East End and operated from 1828 to 1933, hosted the race from 1911 to 1914 and from 1919 to 1926. The Blue Grass was revived at Keeneland during its inaugural 11-day Spring Meet in April 1937.

From the unexpected win by the Earl Sande-trained colt Fencing in 1937 through favored Tapit Trice’s victory in 2023 that secured trainer Todd Pletcher’s fourth win in Keeneland’s spring centerpiece, the Blue Grass Stakes maintains a history of close finishes, upsets, fan favorites, and some of racing’s all-time greats. Among the equine stars who took the stage in the venerable race are one runner who would claim the Triple Crown (Whirlaway), 10 winners who would secure their place in the Racing Hall of Fame, 11 winners who would triumph in the Kentucky Derby, and 55 runners who won Triple Crown races.