Oaklawn Park concluded the 2016 live racing season April 16 with across-the-board increases in handle, attendance, average field size, and Oaklawn Anywhere (the tracks advance-deposit wagering site) business.
Oaklawn enjoyed good weather all season and saw total attendance grow 12% to 559,650. All-sources handle on Oaklawn racing increased 4% to $180,582,197 and average field size increased 2.7% from 9.36 to 9.62 per race, among the nation's largest despite not offering turf racing. With three more days of racing offered this year, average daily handle dipped slightly to $3,283,313.
On-track, fans wagered $38,173,563 on the Oaklawn product, an increase of 8%. Oaklawn Anywhere, the track's ADW for in-state residents that has already generated more than $1.5 million in purses, saw the biggest growth during the season, with total handle up by nearly $15 million. Handle on just Oaklawn's races grew 35% over last year to $8.9 million.
"We had great weather and I'm sure we benefitted from the (American Pharoah ) effect to a certain extent," said Oaklawn director of racing David Longinotti. "We saw an increase in fan interest early on and we think we were able to attract new fans with the tremendous racing we offered all season. The top three finishers of our Arkansas Derby (gr. I)—Creator, Suddenbreakingnews, and Whitmore—all appear headed to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). All three spent the entire winter with us. That's especially gratifying."
Horsemen racing at Oaklawn benefitted from three purse increases during the meet and saw maiden special weight purses grow to $76,000, after starting out at $68,000, and allowance race purses increased to $85,000, after starting at $75,000. The purses also contributed to a record-setting season at the claim box with 492 horses claimed for just more than $7 million.
"Oaklawn enjoyed a banner racing season thanks to the support we received from our horsemen and fans, especially the ones in our home state," Longinotti said. "We've been able to improve our racing product year after year and are already extremely excited about next year."
Trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. both enjoyed highly successful meets, topped by Creators's last-to-first victory in the Arkansas Derby. Asmussen earned his seventh leading trainer title with 46 wins and an Oaklawn record $3,448,729 in earnings, while Santana earned his fourth straight leading riding title with 80 wins and $4,064,073, also an Oaklawn earnings record.
Oaklawn's 2017 live racing season begins Jan. 13 and runs through April 15.