Highlighted by a record 72,464 on hand for Lawyer Ron's victory in the closing-day Arkansas Derby (gr. II), the 2006 meet at Oaklawn Park posted record wagering during its 53-day meet. The meet was originally scheduled for 56 days, but racing was canceled on three days of the Presidents' Day holiday weekend due to adverse weather conditions.
On Arkansas Derby day, total pari-mutuel handle for the day, which included a one-day record in Instant Racing wagering of $1,420,105, reached $14,700,492, second only to the all-time record of $15,133,537, set on the occasion of the 2000 Arkansas Derby.
For the season the total mutuel handle totaled $316,847,444, eclipsing the 2002 record of $275,574,697. The total took the daily average mutuel handle for the season to a record $5,978,254 and represented an increase of 13% over the 2005 numbers. Of the record handle, $257,948,809 represented wagering on live and simulcast racing, with a record $58,898,635 on Instant Racing. Instant Racing wagering registered a 52% increase during the 2006 season.
Live racing at Oaklawn went from a total handle of $220,531,775 in 2005 to $238,575,044 in 2006. The outlets on the Oaklawn Simulcast Network tallied $185,014,319 in 2006 compared to $162,734,666 in 2005, for an increase of 14%. The on-track numbers dropped from the 2005 total of $79,049,041 to a 2006 final number of $73,934,490. Track officials cited the three-day Presidents' Day holiday weekend cancellation as a factor in the downturn, as that weekend "annually represented a significant amount of the annual total attendance and mutuel handle at Oaklawn," according to a release from the track.
Attendance for the season, 644,535, represented a drop of 9% from the 2005 figure of 706,328. However that figure, too, was seriously impacted by the loss of the Presidents' Day holiday weekend, which in 2005 brought in over 67,000 fans.
Unofficially purses reached $14,099,950, which will surpass $265,000 per day and establish another seasonal record.
"What a remarkable finish we enjoyed," admitted Oaklawn general manager, Eric Jackson. "We were all disappointed to lose the Presidents' Day holiday weekend, but we are equally elated with the finish we had at the end of the meet and, of course, the brilliant Arkansas Derby Day. This meet was a cooperative effort of our fans, horsemen, and employees all contributing to continue the great tradition of big-time racing at Oaklawn Park. We couldn't be happier."