Oaklawn Park enjoyed a season to remember in 2015 as the track was graced twice by American Pharoah, who prepped for his historic Triple Crown sweep by winning the Arkansas Derby (G1) and Rebel (G2).
Whether there is another Thoroughbred of that stature in the pipeline is presently unknown, but if there is Oaklawn will do its best to lure them to Hot Springs, Arkansas, with a record purse distribution for its meet which begins Friday and runs through April 16.
Oaklawn currently projects total purses of $27 million, or $475,000 per day, a 12 percent increase over last season. Maiden special weights will be worth $68,000, open allowances $75,000, and the bottom purse will be $21,000.
A $7.5 million stakes schedule is again highlighted by the $1 million Arkansas Derby on closing day, April 16. The March 19 Rebel has seen its purse rise from $750,000 to $900,000 this year, while the purse for the February 15 Southwest (G3) has been beefed up from $300,000 to $500,000. Oaklawn’s series of Kentucky Derby (G1) preps begin Monday with the $150,000 Smarty Jones.
Among other stakes getting purse enhancements this year are the Oaklawn H. (G2) on Arkansas Derby Day, which got a 25 percent boost to $750,000; the Razorback H. (G2) on Rebel Day, which now carries a $300,000 purse; and the Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) on April 10, which is now worth $400,000.
The Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn H. and Count Fleet Sprint are among the numerous features during the Racing Festival of the South, which will be held during the closing week of racing. Other highlights that week include the $600,000 Apple Blossom H. (G1) for fillies and mares and the $400,000 Fantasy (G3), a Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep for three-year-old fillies.
Track promotions for the four-day opening weekend include the traditional 50-cent corned beef sandwiches and 10-cent soft drinks on Saturday, followed on Monday by the American Pharoah Bobblehorse Giveaway with a $2 donation to the Arkansas Racetrack Chaplaincy.
Pete Aiello will be the new voice of Oaklawn racing beginning Friday. The 30-year-old Florida native succeeds Frank Mirahmadi, who accepted race-calling duties at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields for the winter.
The first stakes of the meet is Friday’s $100,000 Dixie Belle, a six-furlong dash for three-year-old fillies. Churchill allowance winner Durango is the likely favorite in a field of eight that also includes Grade 3-placed stakes winner Above Fashion, $125,000 Landaluce runner-up Alien Giant, and recent debut winner Katalust.
Oaklawn kicks off this weekend with a great lineup of races, including four stakes races across four consecutive days. In other words, they are setting up an Oaklawn Grand Slam, and TwinSpires.com is giving away 1 million points to anyone that can hit it.
All you have to do is place a $15 Show bet on a single horse for each contest race on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If you are still alive, place a $15 Win bet on a single horse for the final contest race on Monday to complete the Grand Slam.
Click the above link for all the details.