02/19/2004 12:00AM

Oaklawn bonus draws 140

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A $5 million bonus tied to the Kentucky Derby this year helped Oaklawn Park garner 140 early-bird nominations to its $200,000 Rebel Stakes and $1 million Arkansas Derby. Those races are the first two legs of the track's bonus series.

The early nomination fee of $300 makes horses eligible for the Rebel at 1 1/16 miles March 20, and the Arkansas Derby at 1 1/8 miles April 10. A horse who can win those races and go on to capture the Kentucky Derby will earn a $5 million bonus from Oaklawn owner Charles Cella.

A sweep of those races has been accomplished once, by Sunny's Halo in 1983.

Among the early-bird nominees known to be pointing for or considering the Rebel are The Cliff's Edge, Mr. Jester, Tiger Hunt, and Maisie's Son. Others nominated include Read the Footnotes, Minister Eric, and Tapit.