Oaklawn Park

Oaklawn Park

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Oaklawn Park Hikes Purses $100,000 a Week

The Arkansas racetrack expects purses to total about $18 million by meet's end.

Oaklawn Park raised purses again effective Feb. 23, this time by about $100,000 a week.

Officials at the Hot Springs, Ark., racetrack said with the additional $800,000 through the end of the meet, purses will total a record $18 million for the 56-day session.

Oaklawn was forced to cancel a record eight days because of weather and track conditions in 2011. This year the weather has been good and attendance has increased, officials said.

A smaller purse hike was announced earlier in the meet.

“As we learned last year, weather can be the difference between a good meet and a great meet,” said David Longinotti, assistant general manager of racing at Oaklawn. “We’ve been very fortunate that everything has fallen into place this season. It’s very exciting to work for a company that puts as much effort into racing as gaming. Thanks to the positive trends on both sides this meet, we’re able to keep making our racing the best nationwide.”

Oaklawn has a gaming parlor that offers electronic games of skill and Instant Racing.

Purses will increase $1,500 for all claiming races under $20,000; $3,000 for all claiming races over $20,000; and $5,000 for all maiden special weight and allowance races. Maiden special weight events will now go for $46,000, among the highest in the country for this time of year.

“The owners and trainers are thrilled with this purse increase,” said Bill Walmsley, president of the Arkansas Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “It makes all of us feel very good. It’s another indication that Oaklawn continues to buck the national trend.

“This is the way that Thoroughbred racing should be conducted. It shows just how successful it can be when racing is treated as a major sporting event and not just a gambling event. The fans respond.”

Oaklawn reported attendance of 29,313 on Feb. 20, President’s Day, for a racing program that featured two divisions of the grade III Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds.