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Oaklawn boosting stakes race purses

by Democrat-GazettePress Services | July 20, 2023 at 2:22 a.m.
Arkansas Derby day on Saturday, April 1, 2023, at Oaklawn in Hot Springs. .(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

HOT SPRINGS -- The richest 3-year-old prep series in the nation gets even richer in 2024 as Oaklawn Racing Casino Resport announced Wednesday it is pumping nearly $1 million more into the purses for its most important races for 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

Oaklawn increased the purses of the four races pointing toward the Kentucky Derby a total of $600,000, with the Grade I Arkansas Derby bumped to $1.5 million from $1.25 million; the Grade II Rebel Stakes going to $1.25 million from $1 million; and the Grade III Southwest and Smarty Jones increasing to $800,000 and $300,000, respectively.

The purses for the three races for 3-year-old fillies with Kentucky Oaks aspirations were also increased substantially, with the Grade III Fantasy Stakes increased to $750,000; the Grade III Honeybee to $400,000 and the Martha Washington to $250,000 -- a total increase of $300,000.

Purses were also increased for 14 additional stakes races, including the two most important races for older runners. The Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap and the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap were both increased to $1.25 million, jumping the total purses in the stakes program to a record $16.2 million.

Oaklawn also added two new races to the stakes schedule for 3-year-old sprinters, the $150,000 Ozark and the $150,000 Mockingbird for 3-year-old fillies, bringing the total number of stakes races to 47, also an Oaklawn record.

"It's absolutely remarkable how our stakes program has grown in recent years," Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. "We've doubled the number of stakes we offer and have added millions to the purses. We want our fans to have the opportunity to see some of the top thoroughbreds in the country, and increasing the purses to this level will bring those horses."

Oaklawn's 2023-2024 season will kick off on Friday, Dec. 8, and continue for 66 race days through the first Saturday in May. Racing will generally be Friday through Sunday throughout the season, but Thursdays will be added to the racing calendar in parts of March and April.

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