HOT SPRINGS, Ark.- Oaklwan officials say if approved by the Arkansas Racing Commission, they plan to conduct the regular 57-day meet highlighted by four $1 million stakes races- $1 million Rebel Stakes, $1 million Arkansas Derby, $1 million Oaklawn Handicap and $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap.
According to a news release from Oaklawn sent Wednesday, this is the richest purse structure in its 117-year history.
The 2021 season, which will be highlighted by the opening of a multi-purpose event center and a luxury 200-room hotel that overlooks the track, is scheduled to run Friday, January 22 through Saturday, May 1.
Officials say 21 stakes will have their purses raised by at least $25,000. According to officials, the most notable stakes increases are $150,000 to both the Essex Handicap on March 13 and Oaklawn Mile on April 10, which will be worth $500,000 and $400,000, respectively. The purse of the Razorback Handicap on Saturday, February 13 will be raised by $100,000 to $600,000. All stakes, including ones for state-breds, will be at least $150,000 each, according to Oaklawn officials.
“We would not be able to once again offer record purses next year if it weren’t for the tremendous support we’ve received from the Arkansas Racing Commission, the horsemen, and our fans in 2020,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. “We are excited to continue building on our ‘New Level of Excellence,’ which will include our new hotel, event center, state-of-the-art spa, and additional restaurants, which are all on schedule to open late 2020/early 2021.”
According to the news release, Oaklawn’s 3-year-old program for horses with Kentucky Derby aspirations will begin opening day, which is January 22, with the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes and will lead up to the closing day on May 1 with the $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational. In between are the $750,000 Southwest Stakes on February 15, $1 million Rebel Stakes on March 13 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 10.
Oaklawn officials say the five signature races the comprise the traditional Racing Festival of the South will run over three Saturdays starting with the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Kentucky Oaks trail on April 3.
The $1 million Arkansas Derby, a major stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby, will run on April 10, along with three other stakes.
Officials say Oaklawn’s series for older horses leads up to April 17 with the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap and the $1 million Apple Blossom for fillies and mares.
“Once finalized, the full purse program will be released soon,” added Oaklawn General Manager Wayne Smith. “We anticipate it will exceed $700,000 a day.”
Oaklawn officials say the 2021 stakes schedule features a total of 33 races worth $11,000,000. Racing will take place Friday through Sunday for the first two weeks of the meet and then shift to a Thursday-Sunday schedule starting in February. Officials say there will be racing on Presidents Day, Monday, February 15, but there will not be racing on Easter Sunday, April 4.
To see the 2021 stakes schedule, click here.