Oaklawn Park raises the curtain on its 54-day meet Friday in the heart of Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. The oval first saw racing in 1905.
Due to a new tax break, simulcast betting, and the growth of electronic pari-mutuel racing game Instant Racing, Oaklawn's purse structure will rise dramatically this year. The average should hit in the $230,000-$250,000 range daily, up from last year's $212,000.
Oaklawn's biggest racing day will be April 6, when it runs the meet's two grade I contests, the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap and the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap. The Racing Festival of the South begins one day earlier, and concludes with the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) for 3-year-olds April 13. In all, 25 stakes worth $3.25 million will be run.
Oaklawn has signed a non-exclusive agreement with TVG to televise its races. Also, its signal is expected to be sent to Europe as part of an agreement with Greenwood Racing.