04/15/2015 11:15AM

Oaklawn sees slight gains in handle


Despite canceling its entire opening weekend this year due to wintry weather, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., posted slight gains in average and total handle for the 2015 meet that closed Saturday, according to figures distributed by the track.

Average daily all-sources handle for the 52 days of the meet was $3,350,033, up 1 percent from $3,318,589 last year, when the track had 51 full days of live racing. The 2014 figure was up 19 percent compared with average daily all-sources handle in 2013, when the track had 54 live racing days.

Total handle was up 3 percent at $174,201,721, according to the figures. Much of the gains came from handle at simulcast sites across the country.

Average daily purse distribution was a record $465,000, according to the track, up 13 percent from last year. Purses at Oaklawn are subsidized by Instant Racing machines, slot-machine-like devices that operate at the track year-round. During the meet, purses were raised three times.

While Oaklawn lost four entire cards and two partial cards to weather last year, this year’s bad weather came at extremely inopportune times for the track, with the first three days of the meet canceled along with Presidents Day. At one point in mid-March, the track had run only one entire race card on a track labeled “fast.” But the weather for the final week was nearly ideal for springtime in Arkansas, and its closing-day card, featuring the Arkansas Derby and Apple Blossom Handicap, drew an estimated 67,500 to the track, according to Oaklawn.

Ricardo Santana Jr. took the jockeys’ title for the third year in a row with 53 wins from 310 mounts, edging out Roman Vazquez, who had 51 wins, also from 310 mounts. Chris Hartman earned his first trainers’ title at the track with 34 wins from 129 starts, four victories better than Steve Asmussen, who has won the trainers’ title at Oaklawn six times.