One year after launching American Pharoah’s successful Triple Crown bid, Oaklawn concluded the 2016 live racing season Saturday with across-the-board increases in handle, attendance, average field size and Oaklawn Anywhere business.
Oaklawn enjoyed good weather all season long and saw total attendance grow 12% to 559,650. All sources handle on Oaklawn racing increased 4% to $180,582,197 thanks to competitive races and a field size increase to 9.62 per race, among the largest in the nation.
On-track, fans wagered $38,173,563 on the Oaklawn product, an increase of 8%. Overall, Arkansans responded in a big way. Oaklawn Anywhere, the track’s account wagering service for in-state residents that has already generated over $1.5 million in purses, saw the biggest growth during the season with total handle up by nearly $15 million. Handle on just Oaklawn’s races grew 35% over last year to $8.9 million.
“We had great weather and I’m sure we benefitted from the ‘Pharoah’ effect to a certain extent,” said Director of Racing David Longinotti. “We saw an increase in fan interest early on and we think we were able to attract new fans with the tremendous racing we offered all season. The top three finishers of our Arkansas Derby – Creator, Suddenbreakingnews and Whitmore – all appear headed to the Kentucky Derby. All three spent the entire winter with us. That’s especially gratifying.”
Horsemen racing at Oaklawn benefitted from three purse increases during the meet and saw Maiden Special Weight purses grow to $76,000 after starting out at $68,000 and Allowance race purses increased to $85,000 after starting at $75,000. The purses also contributed to a record-setting season at the claim box with 492 horses claimed for just over $7 million.
“Oaklawn enjoyed a banner racing season thanks to the support we received from our horsemen and fans, especially the ones in our home state,” said Longinotti. “We’ve been able to improve our racing product year after year and are already extremely excited about next year.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. both enjoyed highly successful meets topped by Creators’s last-to-first victory in the $1 million Arkansas Derby. Asmussen earned his seventh leading trainer title with 46 wins and an Oaklawn record $3,448,729 in earnings, while Santana earned his fourth straight leading riding title with 80 wins and $4,064,073, also an Oaklawn earnings record.
Oaklawn’s 2017 live racing season begins Friday, Jan. 13 and runs through Saturday, April 15.
2016 Oaklawn at a Glance:
Total handle: $180,582,197 (+4%)
Total Attendance: 559,650 (12%)
On Track Handle: $38,173,563 (8%)