The track with the richest Triple Crown prep schedule will greatly enhance its handicap division in 2017.
Oaklawn will offer a lucrative alternative to horsemen looking for a race in advance of the Dubai World Cup by increasing the purse of the Razorback Handicap (G3) from $350,000 to $500,000 and moving the race from March to Monday, Feb. 20, where it will share the card with the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) on Presidents’ Day.
The Essex Handicap purse has also been bumped from $100,000 to $250,000 and will now share the card with the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) on Saturday, March 18.
“We’ve become known for attracting the best 3-year-olds in the nation,” Director of Racing David Longinotti said. “Now, we want to complement that by attracting the best older horses, too. And not just for the Oaklawn Handicap. We want our fans to be able to see them in February and maybe they’ll get to see them again in March and April.”
In addition to the Razorback and Essex, the purses of 10 other stakes have been increased by at least $25,000. Two – the Bayakoa (G3) for older fillies and mares Feb. 18 and the Honeybee (G3) for 3-year-old fillies March 11 – each received a $50,000 increase to $150,000 and $200,000 respectively.
The highlight of the 2017 season will once again be the Racing Festival of the South which will run April 13-15, the final three days of the season. It will feature the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes Thursday, April 13, the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) and $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) Friday, April 14, and conclude with the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes, $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3), $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap and $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) Saturday, April 15.
“Multi-stakes days have proven successful here over the past several years,” Longinotti added. “By combining our biggest races select days, we heighten the racing excitement for our fans. It also makes it more convenient for horsemen shipping to Hot Springs from all over the country.”
Overall, Oaklawn will offer 31stakes worth $8.25 million next year. The 2017 Live Meet begins Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 and continues through Saturday, April 15.
(from Oaklawn news release)