08/29/2007 11:00PM

Purses seen at a record $300K daily


The Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby, which has produced three of the last four winners of the Preakness Stakes, will anchor a 30-race, $4.6 million stakes schedule this winter at Oaklawn Park. The track's 54-date meet will open on Jan. 18 and run through April 12.

Purses for the meet are expected to average a record $300,000 a day.

Curlin became the latest Arkansas Derby winner to take the Preakness. Others to win both races in the last four years are Afleet Alex and Smarty Jones, who also won the Kentucky Derby. The Arkansas Derby, at 1 1/8 miles, will be run on April 12.

It is the richest race in the state and the focal point of the annual Racing Festival of the South, when at least one stakes a day is run over the final week of the meet. The festival opens with a pair of $500,000 stakes, the Grade 1 Apple Blossom and the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, both on April 5.

The Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy for 3-year-old fillies will be run April 6, and the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on April 10.

Oaklawn's stakes schedule also includes three preps for the Arkansas Derby. The newest is the Smarty Jones, a $50,000 race at a mile on Jan. 21. From there, 3-year-olds can prep in the $250,000 Southwest at a mile Feb. 18, and the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel at 1 1/16 miles March 15.