Oaklawn Park has increased purses on 13 of its 32 stakes planned for 2013, including a majority of the 3-year-old stakes races, and has lengthened the Feb. 18 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) from one mile to 1 1/16 miles.
The changes come as the Arkansas track plans a stakes structure worth $5.7 million, the richest program in track history. Next year's 56-day meet runs Jan. 11 through April 13.
There will be more money and points available to hopefuls pointing toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Oaklawn than at any other track in the U.S. in 2013, as stakes purses go up by nearly $400,000. Next year marks the first time Churchill Downs will use a point system rather than graded stakes earnings to determine fields for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
Oaklawn's 3-year-old series, which since 2004 has produced two winners of the Kentucky Derby, four Preakness (gr. I) winners, one Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner, has a total of 289 points available and $2,050,000 in purses.
Significant $100,000 boosts were made to two marquee 3-year-old races, the March 16 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) for colts and geldings, and the April 10 Fantasy Stakes (gr. III) for fillies. The purses of the first two legs of the track's series for male 3-year-olds, the Smarty Jones and Southwest, have both been raised by $50,000. Additionally, the purse of the March 9 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies was raised $25,000.
"Oaklawn welcomes the new point system because it rewards the prep races such as our Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby (gr. I) that have a longstanding tradition of producing Triple Crown caliber horses," said David Longinotti, assistant general manager of racing at Oaklawn. "We are also excited that horses can start earning points with the Smarty Jones Stakes in January, so it was only fitting that we make this and the Southwest even more attractive with larger purses. We believe this can only enhance our series."
The $150,000 Smarty Jones and the $300,000 Southwest will anchor Oaklawn's two Monday holiday cards on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 21 and Presidents Day Feb. 18. The purse for the Rebel Stakes will now be $600,000, the second significant increase for this race in the past two years. The series culminates April 13 with the $1 million Arkansas Derby.
The Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) also received a $100,000 increase to $500,000, the second increase in two years. This 1 1/8-mile event for older horses will once again be part of a four-stakes closing day program April 13, along with the Arkansas Derby, $250,000 Count Fleet Stakes (gr. III), and $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes. Two other races for older horses, the March 9 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) and the April 11 Carousel for female sprinters, had their purses raised by $25,000 to $150,000 and $100,000.
Other stakes to receive purses increases were the Dixie Belle, American Beauty, King Cotton, Downthedustyroad Breeders' Stakes, and Nodouble Breeders' Stakes, all bumped from $50,000 to $60,000. There will be no stakes races run for less than $60,000, including those for state-bred contenders.