A $200,000 bump to the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) and a condensed four-day, nine stakes Racing Festival of the South highlight Oaklawn Park’s 2012 live racing season, which kicks off Jan. 13.
In total, there will be 34 stakes races worth nearly $5.2 million during the season. The 56-day meet will culminate April 14, with the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I).
Oaklawn’s 3-year-old series leading to the Arkansas Derby will once again feature the one-mile $100,000 Smarty Jones, the one-mile $250,000 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) and the 1 1/16-mile $500,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II), which was increased from $300,000. The Smarty Jones and Southwest will anchor the holiday Monday cards on Jan. 16 and Feb. 20, respectively, while the Rebel will be held four weeks in advance of the Arkansas Derby Saturday, March 17.
“We are very proud of our 2012 stakes schedule, but we’re particularly excited about the boost to the Rebel Stakes because it’s making a name for itself as a leading Triple Crown prep, not just an Arkansas Derby prep,” said David Longinotti, assistant general manager of racing.
Oaklawn has condensed its annual Racing Festival of the South and will now run its final nine stakes between Wednesday, April 11, and Saturday, April 14. The rich four days of racing begins April 11 with the $300,000 Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies; continues April 12 with the $75,000 Carousel and $100,000 Redbud Stakes; April 13 with the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) and $100,000 Instant Racing before ending April 14 with the $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes, $200,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (gr. III), $350,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II), and the Arkansas Derby.
“Our hope with the compressing of the Racing Festival is to make it more convenient to send horses to Hot Springs,” said Longinotti. “Horsemen will be able to line up one plane, send several horses across a couple different divisions and arrange to have their main riders come for all the races of the Festival. We are confident that with this move, we will not only continue to attract the best 3-year-olds, but will continue to have large, competitive fields for all our Festival races.”
Other stakes of note during the 2012 season include the $125,000 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) and $125,000 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III), both on March 10 and the $150,000 Azeri Stakes (gr. III) on March 17. Oaklawn Park will run Thursday—Sunday during the meet with two holiday Monday cards.