07/25/2012 3:39PM

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

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.

Susan Austin More than 1 year ago
That is so exciting. As everyone knows, Oaklawn is a privately owned corporation. It is GREAT that they are keeping with their grand tradition of horse racing and funding the purses like this. They also do a lot to support their state with state bred racing since it are really the only track those horses can compete in state bred company. Way to go OAKLAWN!
Jimee63 More than 1 year ago
The article does not mention that this $500K increase is all casino money. I have commented before that racing has no right to demand casino money to increase their purses. If the sport cannot live on purses from the handle, the option should be pretty clear. That casino money should be paid back to casino patrons through higher machine payoffs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jimee63, Shut up and go post on a casino web site. You have no clue as to what you are talking about anyway. Keep pulling those 1 armed bandits and helping us out in the meantime!
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
It's a fair argument een though I don't agree with it. At least the poster doesn't hide behind "anonymous".
James More than 1 year ago
The Oaklawn purse increases are from PRIVATE Casino money so they are entitled to do what they like with their money. I am very happy they choose to invest their profits into horse racing instead of gaming as I am a horse patron of Oaklawn on a regular basis during the race meet. I have witnessed some top notch horse racing over the past decade to include the likes of Zenyatta, Rachel, Smarty, Afleet Alex, Curlin, Super Saver and Lookin at Lucky as a result of the competitive purses Mr. Cella and Oaklawn put up each and every year. Racing can survive with track owners who love and put racing first.