Oaklawn Ups Ante With $5 Million Bonus

Oaklawn Park announced Wednesday that it will offer the richest program for 3-year-olds in the nation with more than $6 million available for Triple Crown runners during next year's meet. Oaklawn celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2004.

Oaklawn will not only double the purse for the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) from $500,000 to $1 million, but also will offer a $5-million bonus should any horse sweep its Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby, and Kentucky Derby (gr. I). The "Centennial" bonus matches the amount of the Visa Triple Crown bonus.

The Rebel, at 1 1/16 miles, is run three weeks before the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby, which is run three weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby. The Rebel purse will be boosted from $125,000 to $200,000 for 2004 and will be run on March 20. The Arkansas Derby is slated for April 10, with the Kentucky Derby being run May 1.

Sunny's Halo is the lone horse to accomplish the triple, doing so in 1983.

"By taking this action, we commit ourselves to creating a vibrant 3-year-old racing program, which may attract the finest of the breed for years to come," said owner and president Charles Cella in a released statement following a press conference in Little Rock, Ark.

"Attaching our two biggest 3-year-old races to the Kentucky Derby and offering a $5-million bonus for the horse than can win all three is understandably going to create unprecedented interest in the racing program," said racing secretary Pat Pope.

Oaklawn will offer a special "early bird" nomination of $300 due on Feb. 14, 2004 that makes horses eligible for the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby. The regular nomination date for the Rebel is March 12, which at $3,000 makes horses eligible for the Rebel, Arkansas Derby, and "Centennial" bonus. Supplemental nominations will be $20,000, accepted on March 18.

With the arrival of the 2004 racing season, Oaklawn Park unveiled the Centennial logo. The Oaklawn Jockey Club was created in 1904 with the first live meet run at the same site as the present-day facility in Hot Springs, Ark.. Highlighted on the Centennial Logo is the famous Oaklawn finish line pole, which has a distinct design that has been copied by a number of other American tracks.

The Oaklawn season runs from Jan. 23 to April 10.