08/25/2009 11:00PM

Oaklawn raises some stakes purses


The Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby at 1 1/8 miles April 10 will be the highlight of a 30-race stakes schedule worth a record $4.7 million next year at Oaklawn Park. The Hot Springs, Ark., track will begin its meet Jan. 15, 2010.

Oaklawn, which opened the first phase of its expanded gaming area this past May, has increased the purses of 10 of its stakes next year, including the first race in its 3-year-old series, the Smarty Jones. Worth $50,000 a year ago, the one-mile race will have a purse of $100,000 when it is renewed Jan. 18. The other races making up the march to the season-ending Arkansas Derby are the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest at a mile Feb. 15, and the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel at 1 1/16 miles March 13.

Oaklawn also has a series for 3-year-old fillies, and the track has increased the purse of each of those races for 2010. The series culminates with the Grade 2 Fantasy on April 2, which will be boosted in value from $250,000 to $300,000 a year after being won by future Preakness and Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra. The build up to the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy begins with the $75,000 Martha Washington at a mile Feb. 13, up from $50,000, and the $125,000 Honeybee at 1 1/16 miles March 13, up from $100,000.

"Our goal is to be the best track in the nation to prepare 3-year-olds of both sexes for the spring classics," Pat Pope, the racing secretary for Oaklawn, said in a release issued Wednesday.

The Fantasy will kick of next year's Racing Festival of the South, when at least one major stakes a day is run over the final week of the meet. Other top festival races include the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap and the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap, both of which will share a card April 3.

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