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story.lead_photo.caption A post parade of horses circle past empty grandstands last Saturday at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs. Fans have not been allowed at the track since March 13 because of coronavirus concerns. Starting today, race purses will be reduced at the track. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe) ( Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Thomas Metthe)

HOT SPRINGS -- Nothing has been immune to the coronavirus pandemic. Its consequential upheaval has struck everything, including worldwide and American sports and horse racing's role within it.

Oaklawn President Louis Cella offered the racetrack's most significant response to date when he announced Friday that the Grade I 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby and its offering of 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points has been rescheduled from April 11 to May 2.

Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort's move was prompted by the earlier rescheduling of Churchill Down's Kentucky Derby from its traditional first Saturday in May to Sept. 5, or the first Saturday of September. The race had not been run on any other Saturday in any other month since 1945.

Also, purse cuts begin today at Oaklawn and will apply to the Arkansas Derby, which will offer a total of $750,000, down from $1 million.

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"Churchill Downs understands the circumstances created by the current health crisis, and therefore will allow the full 170 points toward Kentucky Derby eligibility as long as we meet the minimum purse threshold of $750,000," Cella said. "The purse reductions are across the board. If operations return to normal between now and May, we will adjust them accordingly."

Cella has said purse reductions were a necessary consequence of revenue lost when Oaklawn closed its track to fans March 13 and its casino on Monday.

Oaklawn will also move the Grade III 1 1/16-mile Fantasy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and its 170 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points from April 10 to May 1. The Grade I Oaks at Churchill Downs has been rescheduled for Sept. 4.

Other schedule changes at Oaklawn include the Grade III 6-furlong Count Fleet Sprint Handicap for older horses from April 11 to April 18 and the Grade II 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn Handicap for older horses from April 18 to May 2.

"We are trying to make the best of a bad situation, and we greatly appreciate the cooperation we have received from our horsemen and the Arkansas Racing Commission," Cella said.

Sports on 03/21/2020

Print Headline: Arkansas Derby moved to May 2


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