04/26/2017 1:50PM

Oaklawn average daily handle rises 1.3 percent

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Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., closed its 2017 meet with a slight uptick in average daily handle on its races and a track-record purse distribution. The meet ended April 15, with Classic Empire’s victory in the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

Oaklawn handled an average of $3,325,161 per day on its races from all sources during its 57-date meet, up 1.3 percent from the average of $3,283,312 during the track’s 55-date meet in 2016. (Admission to the track, which also operates a gaming center, has been free since 2015.)

Purses for Oaklawn’s meet averaged $502,781 per program, up from last year’s $492,640. During the meet, the track boosted maiden special weight purses from $72,000 to $80,000, while purses for some allowances grew from $74,000 to $84,000.

Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. won his fifth consecutive Oaklawn riding title, with 53 wins. He also led all riders in mount earnings with $2.7 million.

Steve Asmussen won his eighth Oaklawn training title, with 41 wins. He also led all trainers in earnings with $2.7 million.

Danny Caldwell won the Oaklawn owner title for the fourth time, with 22 wins. He also led all stables in earnings with $965,728.

Oaklawn’s claiming activity remained fierce in 2017, with 456 claims for $6.2 million in transactions among stables. The claiming numbers were among the highest in track history, with the standard set in 2016, when 492 horses were claimed for $7 million.

In other highlights, Oaklawn moved the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap from March to its Southwest Stakes card in February, and the race was won by Gun Runner. A month later, Oaklawn handled $10.7 million from all sources on Rebel Stakes Day, the highest single-day handle for Oaklawn outside of an Arkansas Derby Day. This year, handle on the Arkansas Derby card topped $13.5 million.

“It was a terrific season,” said Wayne Smith, who on March 25 took over as general manager of Oaklawn.

Eric Jackson, who had held the post since 1987, will now work on special projects as senior vice president of Oaklawn.

Also during the meet, a new “show bet bonus” that rewarded ontrack players with higher payoffs led to an increase in show wagering.

“The show pool increased 34 percent over last year,” said David Longinotti, director of racing for Oaklawn.

Racing at Oaklawn will resume Jan. 12, 2018. The 57-date meet will run through April 14.