Oaklawn Park is one of five Thoroughbred racetracks still operating in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Hot Springs, Ark., course will have a mortal stranglehold on all the top-class stakes action allowed to be run in the country through its scheduled closing day of May 2.
Following the announcement that the Kentucky Derby (G1) would be postponed from May 2 to Sept. 5, the final month of Oaklawn’s stakes schedule was revamped and downward adjustments in stakes purses were made due to the closure of the track and its casino to patrons.
Nonetheless, the Oaklawn schedule remains highly lucrative with two stakes scheduled for each of the remaining four Saturdays.
This coming weekend feature the $200,000 Oaklawn S. for 3-year-olds (previously an invitational) and the $150,000 Oaklawn Mile for older horses. The formerly compact Racing Festival of the South will now be spread over three weekends, beginning with the $600,000 Apple Blossom H. (G1) for fillies and mares and the $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) on Apr. 18.
Two sprint stakes, the $125,000 Carousel for fillies and mares and $100,000 Bachelor for 3-year-olds, highlight the Apr. 18 card, while the penultimate day of racing on Friday, May 1, features the $400,000 Fantasy (G3) for 3-year-old fillies.
The first Saturday in May is now highlighted by the $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) and $600,000 Oaklawn H. (G2). Although reduced in purse from $1 million, the 1 1/8-mile Derby will still offer Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 100-40-20-10.
With literally no competition, the Arkansas Derby figures to have its deepest field in years. Indeed, it’s shaping up as a micro Kentucky Derby with perhaps one-third or more of the horses that would have been in the starting gate of the Churchill classic under normal circumstances.
Bob Baffert’s Rebel (G2) winner Nadal is a leading candidate, but with Santa Anita shut down indefinitely we could see others from the stable appear as well. Other Southern Californians looking at the race are San Felipe (G2) runner-up Honor A. P. and reigning juvenile champion Storm the Court.
Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Wells Bayou is targeting the Arkansas equivalent as is Risen Star (G2) division winner Modernist. The Tampa Bay Derby (G2) one-two of King Guillermo and Sole Volante also have their eyes on the prize, along with Rebel runner-up Excession.
The nine-furlong Oaklawn S. on Saturday is sure to yield some Arkansas Derby candidates. Potential starters include last year’s Hopeful (G1) winner Basin and Gotham (G3) victor Mischevious Alex.
OAKLAWN PARK AT A GLANCE
Avg. Winning Odds: 5.41 – 1
Favorite Win%: 38%, Favorite Itm%: 71%
TRACK BIAS MEET(01/24 – 03/29)|
Posts 5.5fDirt 9 33% E Rail 6.0fDirt 216 30% E Rail/Ins 1 MileDirt 50 18% E/P Rail/Ins 1 1/16mDirt 80 26% E Inside
TRACK BIAS WEEK(03/23 – 03/29)|
Posts 5.5fDirt 1 0% E Outside 6.0fDirt 25 48% E Inside 1 MileDirt 3 0% E/P Rail/Ins 1 1/16mDirt 8 13% E/P Outside
Who’s HOT, Who’s NOT
|O’Neill Doug F.||8||4||0||0||12.60||1||18%|
|Borel Cecil P.||3||3||0||0||3.30||1||28%|
|Amoss Thomas M.||6||3||1||1||4.30||2||22%|
|Englehart Jeremiah C.||4||2||0||0||5.10||1||21%|
|Puhl Kim A.||11||0||2||1||22.99||0||19%|
|Canchari Alex L.||15||0||2||2||32.45||0||11%|
|Eramia Richard E.||13||0||2||0||25.96||1||16%|
|Thompson Terry J.||12||0||1||0||29.97||0||11%|