Oaklawn Park track officials announced that the Essex Handicap (gr. III), for 3-year-olds and upwards at 1 1/16 mile, scheduled for Feb. 22, will be contested for a purse of $100,000 guaranteed. The 55th running of the Essex was originally scheduled at $75,000, but has been raised to attract interest in participating in the series of handicaps for older horses at the meet. That series also includes the $100,000 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) on Mar. 16, and the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) on Apr. 6.
"It's always exciting to raise purses," saidracing secretary Pat Pope, "Especially when the raise might ensure that the racing program can improve as a result. We are already looking at probably the highest daily purse distribution ever at Oaklawn this year and this bump to one of our more traditional stakes is just another indication that things are good in Hot Springs. We're always excited to share good news with horsemen."