Coming on the heels of having launched the first successful Triple Crown bid in 37 years and with record purses for the eighth straight year, it is not a surprise that Oaklawn received a large number of stall applications for the 2016 race meet that begins Friday, Jan. 16.
For the second consecutive year, the track received applications for more than 2,800 stalls – nearly twice the number of horses the barn area can accommodate. These applications came from 149 different trainers, including 33 who had never raced full-time at Oaklawn.
“While we’re certainly pleased with the number of applications, what we’re most excited about is the quality of the applications,” Racing Secretary Pat Pope said. “Currently, we have around 1,500 stalls and this year, I only wish we had about twice that many.”
The barn area will open Monday, Nov. 16 and the track will open for training the following Monday, Nov. 23.
Horsemen returning in 2016 include Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, six-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen, 2015 leading trainer Chris Hartman, Brad Cox, who has enjoyed a career year in 2015, Ken McPeek, Steve Hobby, Chris Richard, Ron Moquett and Donnie K. Von Hemel.
Seven-time Sovereign Award winning trainer Mark Casse returns for his third meet and trainers Wayne Catalano, Robertino Diodoro and Tony Dutrow, who trainers from prominent Arkansas owners Alex and Joanne Lieblong and John Ed Anthony will be returning for their second meets. They will be joined by newcomers Mike Maker, Patrick Byrne, Tom Proctor, Ignacio Correas, Tom Amoss and Genaro Garcia.
Danny Caldwell will be back in 2016 seeking his third consecutive leading owner title. On the jockey front, Ricardo Santana Jr. will seeking his fourth title, but is likely to face strong competition from Ramon Vazquez, Joe Rocco Jr. and Chris Landeros.
“The quality of our racing as gotten better year after year as our purses have continued to grow, but having American Pharoah win our two biggest races for 3-year-olds and then the Triple Crown has really helped create a buzz going into this meet,” Pope said. “We don’t like to get too far ahead of ourselves, but it’s shaping up to be another terrific meet with several top stakes horses returning and another good class of 3-year-olds expected to be on the grounds.”
Oaklawn will begin the meet with Maiden Special Weight races carrying purses of $68,000, which is $8,000 per race higher than the start of last season. Open Allowance races will have purses up to $75,000 and the minimum purse will be $21,000. Overall, Oaklawn is projecting average daily purses of $475,000.
Oaklawn’s season runs through Saturday, April 16. For more information, visit www.oaklawn.com or call 1-800-OAKLAWN.