One year after increasing the purses of 19 stakes races, Oaklawn Park has planned the richest stakes schedule in track history for 2015. Chief among the changes is a $150,000 bump to the Rebel Stakes (gr. II), which will be worth $750,000 next year.
The Rebel is the final local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I). Overall, Oaklawn will run 31 stakes worth $6,675,000, a $300,000 increase over 2014 and more than $2 million more than the Arkansas track offered seven years ago.
"I am continually impressed by what we've been able to accomplish the past several years," said director of racing David Longinotti. "The timing of the Rebel and the quality of its field for the past several runnings make it an important Triple Crown prep in its own right. It is very deserving of a purse increase."
The Rebel will share the card for the second straight year with the Razorback Handicap (gr. III) and Azeri Stakes (gr. II) as part of "Racing Festival Preview Day" March 14. The $250,000 Razorback, which had its purse raised by $50,000 for 2015, is the final local prep for the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II), while the $300,000 Azeri, which had its purse bumped $100,000 over last year, is the last prep before the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I).
"We also felt by enhancing the purses of the Razorback and Azeri we could build on the Preview Day concept we started in 2014," Longinotti said. "Last year, we were also able to boost the purse of both the Apple Blossom and the Oaklawn Handicap by $100,000 each, and we're pleased to be able to keep those purses at the $600,000 level for 2015."
The 1 1/16-mile Rebel, whose past winners include 3-year-old champions Will Take Charge, Lookin At Lucky , Curlin , and Smarty Jones , is the third of four Oaklawn stakes races offering Kentucky Derby points, culminating with the Arkansas Derby. The first two races in the track's rich series highlight the holiday Monday cards in January and February. The $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes will be run Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 19, and the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) will be run Presidents Day, Feb. 16.
The "Racing Festival of the South" will kick off April 4 with the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies.
The meet will culminate with the 79th running of the Arkansas Derby. The closing day card also will feature the Oaklawn Handicap, $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes, and $100,000 Instant Racing Stakes.