07/25/2012 3:39PM

Oaklawn Park raises purses for 13 stakes, including three-quarters of its 3-year-old series

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Barbara D. Livingston
Oaklawn Park has raised purses for three of the four legs of its 3-year-old stakes series. The Arkansas Derby purse remains $1 million.

The $5.7 million stakes schedule Oaklawn Park released Thursday is the richest in track history due to more than $500,000 in increases made to 13 of its 32 stakes, most notably the Rebel, Fantasy, and Oaklawn Handicap. The Hot Springs, Ark., track opens Jan. 11 and races 56 days through April 13.

Oaklawn boasts one of the nation’s premiere 3-year-old programs, and for the upcoming season has made significant enhancements to the series that is again led by the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby at a mile and an eighth on April 13. The first race in the program, the Smarty Jones, has been boosted in value from $100,000 to $150,000. The one-mile race is Jan. 21.

The Grade 3 Southwest is the next stop, and in addition to a purse increase to $300,000 from $250,000, the Feb. 18 race has been lengthened from a mile to a mile and a sixteenth. The Grade 2 Rebel, meanwhile, will be worth $600,000 when it is run March 16. Last year, the mile and a sixteenth race had a purse of $500,000.

All of the races offer points as part of the new Kentucky Derby rankings system that determines entry into the race.

“Oaklawn welcomes the new point system because it rewards the prep races such as our Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby that have a longstanding tradition of producing Triple Crown caliber horses,” said David Longinotti, assistant general manager of racing for Oaklawn. “We are also excited that horses can start earning points with the Smarty Jones Stakes in January, so it was only fitting that we make this and the Southwest even more attractive with larger purses.”

In other increases, the Fantasy, a prep for the Kentucky Oaks, is now worth $400,000 after having a purse of $300,000. The mile and a sixteenth race is April 10, and it begins the Racing Festival of the South, when at least one major stakes a day is run over the final week of Oaklawn. The festival includes the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 12, and the closing-day graded trio of the Arkansas Derby, the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap that has been boosted to $500,000 from $400,000, and the Grade 3, $250,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap.