Enjoying some of the best Thoroughbred horse racing in the nation will be a little easier in 2015.
Charles Cella, president of the Oaklawn Jockey Club, announced Dec. 10 that the Arkansas racetrack will waive its $2 general admission fee for the 2015 season that begins in January.
Cella said Oaklawn wants to celebrate the completion of an expansion project that began 18 months ago, and at the same time express its appreciation to racing fans for their support of Thoroughbred racing at Oaklawn over the past 110 years.
"Trying to operate while doing major construction is never easy and always a challenge," Cella said. "Our fans and our horsemen have shown great patience and support during this period. We wanted to do something to express our appreciation, and we felt this gesture would be a good way to simply and sincerely say 'thank you.' "
The current expansion project began in April 2013. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of December, just days before the 2015 racing season begins Jan. 9.
Cella said based on interest from horse owners wanting to race in Arkansas, early reservations, and a projection of a record purse distribution, the 2015 racing season is shaping up to be "sensational."
Among the horses expected for the 2015 meet are 14 Hands Winery Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner Take Charge Brandi, XpressBet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Work All Week, and Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) runner-up Don't Tell Sophia.
The 2015 Oaklawn racing season will mark the seventh consecutive year of increased purses. The total purse projection for the meet is more than $23 million, and maiden special weight races will carry purses of $60,000—$5,000 more than when the 2014 season opened.
Open allowance races will offer purses up to $65,000, and the minimum purse will be $18,000. Purses at Oaklawn have risen by more than one-third since the initial opening of the gaming center.
Oaklawn received requests for nearly 3,000 stalls for the 2015 racing season, double the quantity it can house. Horsemen returning will include Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, the trainer of Take Charge Brandi; and Randy Morse, who will have grade I winner Moonshine Mullin in his stable again. Other leading trainers returning to Oaklawn are Ken McPeek, Steve Hobby, Chris Richard, Ron Moquett, and Donnie K. Von Hemel.
Six-time Sovereign Award winning trainer Mark Casse returns for his second straight year and will be joined by newcomers Wayne Catalano, Mike Stidham, Steve Margolis, and Tony Dutrow, among others. Six-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen also returns, and is expected to start both Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) winner Untapable and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) runner-up Tapiture in stakes during the season.