03/21/2009 12:00AM

Oaklawn raises purses again

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark - Oaklawn Park on Saturday announced a second increase to its overnight purses this meet, citing increases in attendance and handle over the first 38 dates of its 54-date season. The track was to boost all maiden special weight and allowance races by $1,000 and all claiming races by $500, effective with the program of Sunday, March 22.

"Our numbers are surprisingly good," Charles Cella, the president of Oaklawn, said in a release issued Saturday.

Just two weeks ago, Oaklawn increased maiden special weight and allowance races by $1,000 and claiming races by $300. And earlier this week the track announced a "participation bonus program" that could increase purses during the final week of the meet, April 4-11.

That bonus calls for a $1,000 per starter purse increase for every wagering interest greater than eight, meaning a $15,000 purse would increase to $16,000 if there are nine wagering interests, and to as much as $19,000 for 12.

Oaklawn officials said handle on its races off-track is running 6 percent above last season, while handle on its races ontrack is up 2 percent. Attendance at the meet is up 3 percent. Field size has been 9.6 starters per race, compared with 9.1 during the corresponding dates in 2008.