02/12/2011 5:01PM

Oaklawn adds one day, bumps up overnight purses


Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., which has lost eight programs this meet to inclement weather, has added an additional day to its season and has increased overnight purses approximately $10,000 a day. The added date will come on Wednesday, April 13, and the purse increase was effective with Saturday’s program, Feb. 12.  

Claiming races are being increased a minimum of $500 each, while all non-claiming races, excluding stakes, will be increased a minimum of $2,000.

Oaklawn worked with the Arkansas Racing Commission and the Arkansas Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association to make the changes. Bill Walmsley, president of the horsemen’s organization, told the commission at a Saturday morning meeting that if Oaklawn did not lose another date this year the track would run 460 races this meet compared with  532 two years ago.

“We need more opportunities to make purse money,” he told commissioners, adding that his organization agreed with all of the weather-related cancellations made at Oaklawn.

Late on Saturday afternoon, the track announced the purse increase and additional date.

Oaklawn has been hit with severe winter weather in the last month, and Saturday’s program was the first live card at the meet since Jan. 30. The cancellation of eight programs is a record for an Oaklawn meet, which was just 19 days into its season Saturday.

“We don’t remember anything like this before, ever,” Oaklawn general manager Eric Jackson told the commission during the meeting Saturday.  

He also remarked that Oaklawn had spent around $250,000 advertising the canceled live dates in the last month. Oaklawn had to push back its season-opener by a day, to Jan. 15, and subsequently lost its first Thursday card, Jan. 20, as well as six consecutive programs from Feb. 3-Feb. 11.

Oaklawn will race through April 16.

* Jockey Michael Baze, the second-leading rider at Oaklawn, has been suspended three days by the track’s board of stewards for a riding infraction in the second race Jan. 30. He has appealed, said his agent, Jay Fedor, and the appeal is scheduled to be heard in two weeks. Baze had won 10 races from 45 starters heading into the card