03/21/2012 5:19PM

Oaklawn Handicap, Count Fleet purses raised $50K each


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap will be worth $400,000 when it is run on April 14 following a $50,000 purse increase that was announced Wednesday. The Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, run on the same closing-day card at Oaklawn, also received a $50,000 increase Wednesday to bring its value to $250,000.

Oaklawn, which during the course of the current meet has made three increases to overnight purses, is also rolling out a participation bonus for the final month of the season. The track announced Wednesday that it will add $1,000 to the purse for every horse that gives a race more than eight separate wagering interests. Under the program, a maiden special weight race with 12 horses could be worth as much as $55,000.

"When we close the books on the 2012 meet, Oaklawn will have offered the highest amount of purses in track history," said Pat Pope, the racing secretary at Oaklawn. "It's exciting to be able to bolster the Arkansas Derby Day card by bumping the purses for the Oaklawn Handicap and Count Fleet, and we are confident that horsemen will respond. We fully expect that the positive business trends we saw earlier in the meet thanks to the good weather will continue over the remaining few weeks of the meet."

Oaklawn, which had lost a record eight days of racing last year because of inclement weather, has experienced an uninterrupted schedule this season. The track has also seen strong business in its gaming center. The Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby is the richest race of the meet, and in addition to the Oaklawn Handicap and Count Fleet, it will be supported by the $100,000 Northern Spur.