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HOT SPRINGS, AR – Oaklawn will dramatically impact the 2022 Triple Crown trail by making two major changes to the Arkansas Derby (G1) – boosting the purse to $1.25 million and moving the date to Saturday, April 2. The date shift is a departure from the traditional three weeks before the Kentucky Derby and the increased purse makes the race the richest event among Derby preps.
All total, Oaklawn is planning a record 36 stakes worth $12.3 million. In addition to the Arkansas Derby, three stakes will carry million dollar purses and 15 other stakes will offer purses ranging from $200,000 up to $750,000. Every stakes race will have at least a $150,000 purse. With the historic shift in the track’s racing calendar that now begins in December, Oaklawn will stage its first 2-year-old stakes since 1973 – the Advent Stakes on opening day, Friday, Dec. 3.
“When we launched our $100 million expansion program two years ago, we said our goal was to take Oaklawn to a new level of excellence,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. “When you look at next season’s stakes schedule, that includes five new stakes, you can see that is exactly what we are doing.”
The new positioning of the Arkansas Derby on the racing calendar will have a ripple effect on Oaklawn’s other major 3-year old races. The $1,000,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) will be run on Saturday, Feb. 26. The $750,000 Southwest (G3) will be run Saturday, Jan. 29. The Smarty Jones Stakes will kick off the series on New Year’s Day with a purse that has been increased by $100,000 to $250,000.
“Historically, Oaklawn’s 3-year-old series has offered the most Kentucky Derby qualifying points of any track in the country,” Cella said. “With the extra timing between races and added purse money, we believe Oaklawn will only grow as ‘the’ place to prepare for the Triple Crown races.”
“Oaklawn has such a wonderful racing history going back 117 years,” General Manager Wayne Smith said. “When racing begins on December 3, fans will get to experience our new hotel overlooking the race track, a world class spa, new event center, and endless casino action. There has never been a more exciting time at Oaklawn.”
Older horses and older fillies and mares will also benefit from rich series leading up to the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), respectively, on Saturday, April 23. Prior to the Oaklawn Handicap, older horses will have the $150,000 Fifth Season on Jan. 15, $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) on Feb. 12, and the $500,000 Essex Handicap on March 19. The opportunities for older fillies and mares prior to the Apple Blossom include the $150,000 Pippin Stakes on Jan. 8, $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) on Feb. 5, and the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) on March 12.
The Arkansas-bred program continues to be one of the richest state-bred programs in the country and will now feature six stakes races after the addition of the $150,000 Natural State Breeders’ Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and older at one mile on Friday, May 6. The highlight of the series is the $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on May 7.
The 2021-2022 Oaklawn live meet runs Friday, Dec. 3 – Sunday, May 8. There is no racing Dec. 24 – 26 for Christmas or April 17 for Easter.
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