07/28/2016 11:16AM

Razorback, Essex handicaps get purse boosts for 2017


The Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby will again anchor the Oaklawn Park stakes program for 2017, but the track has made a handful of upgrades to its 31-race stakes schedule that’s worth a track-record $8.2 million. Oaklawn will open Jan. 13 for a meet that runs through April 15.

The Arkansas Derby, at 1 1/8 miles, highlights a closing-day card of four stakes. The local preps start Jan. 16 with the $150,000 Smarty Jones. The Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest follows on Feb. 20, and the Grade 2, $900,000 Rebel on March 18 again serves as the final stepping-stone to the Arkansas Derby.

Creator won last year’s Arkansas Derby before going on to capture the Belmont Stakes.

In stakes-schedule changes, the Southwest will share a card with the Grade 3, $500,000 Razorback Handicap. Last year, the Razorback was worth $350,000 and was run in March. It is a springboard to the meet’s major offering for older horses, the Grade 2, $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 15.

Other stepping-stones to that race include the Essex Handicap, which has been moved from February to the Rebel program and has had its purse boosted from $100,000 to $250,000. The Rebel program also includes the Grade 2, $350,000 Azeri, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares. The three stakes are designed to produce starters for Racing Festival of the South stakes at Oaklawn.

The Arkansas Derby and Oaklawn Handicap are part of the festival, where Oaklawn groups a number of major stakes over the final week of its meet. The series will again include the Grade 1, $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap for fillies and mares, which next year will share a card with the Grade 3, $400,000 Fantasy for 3-year-old fillies. The races are April 14.

In other changes to the schedule, Oaklawn has increased the minimum purse for open-company stakes from $100,000 to $125,000.

2017 Oaklawn Park stakes schedule

Fri., Jan. 13 Fifth Season 4YO & UP Open 1 1/16M $125,000
Sat., Jan. 14 Pippin 4YO & UP F&M 1 1/16M  $125,000
Mon., Jan. 16 Smarty Jones 3YO Open 1M $150,000
Sat., Jan. 21 Dixie Belle 3YO Fillies 6F $125,000
Sat., Jan. 28 American Beauty 4YO & UP F&M 6F $125,000
Sat., Feb. 4 King Cotton 4YO & UP Open 6F $125,000
Sat., Feb. 11 Martha Washington 3YO Fillies 1M $125,000
Sat., Feb. 18 Bayakoa (G3) 4YO & UP F&M 1 1/16M $150,000
Mon., Feb. 20 Southwest (G3) 3YO Open 1 1/16M $500,000
Mon., Feb. 20 Razorback (G3) 4YO & UP Open 1 1/16M $500,000
Fri., Feb. 24 Downthedustyroad 3YO & UP F&M* 6F $100,000
Sat., Feb. 25 Nodouble 3YO & UP Open* 6F $100,000
Sat., Mar. 4 Spring Fever 4YO & UP F&M 5 1/2F $125,000
Sat., Mar. 4 Gazebo 3YO Open 6F $125,000
Sat., Mar. 11 Honeybee (G3) 3YO Fillies 1 1/16M $200,000
Sat., Mar. 11 Hot Springs 4YO & UP 6F $125,000
Sat., Mar. 18 Azeri (G2) 4YO & UP F&M 1 1/16M $350,000
Sat., Mar. 18 Rebel (G2) 3YO Open 1 1/16M $900,000
Sat., Mar. 18 Essex Handicap 4YO & UP Open 1 1/16M $250,000
Sat., Mar. 25 Instant Racing 3YO Fillies 6F $150,000
Fri., Mar. 31 Rainbow 3YO Open* 6F $100,000
Sat., Apr. 1 Rainbow Miss 3YO Fillies* 6F $100,000
Sat., Apr. 8 Carousel 4YO & UP F&M 6F $150,000
Sat., Apr. 8 Arkansas Breeders' (Open Div.) 3YO & UP Open* 1 1/16M $100,000
Thurs., Apr. 13 Bachelor 3YO Open 6F $150,000
Fri., Apr. 14 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) 4YO & UP F&M 1 1/16M $600,000
Fri., Apr. 14 Fantasy (G3)  3YO Fillies 1 1/16M $400,000
Sat., Apr. 15 Northern Spur  3YO Open 1 1/16M $150,000
Sat., Apr. 15 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) 4YO & UP Open 6F $400,000
Sat., Apr. 15 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) 4YO & UP Open 1 1/8M $750,000
Sat., Apr. 15 Arkansas Derby (G1) 3YO Open 1 1/18M $1 million