Pending approval from the Arkansas Racing Commission, Oaklawn plans to conduct its regular 57-day meet highlighted by four $1-million stakes races–$1-million GII Rebel S., $1-million GI Arkansas Derby, $1-million GII Oaklawn H. and $1-million GI Apple Blossom H.–and the richest purse structure in its 117-year history. The 2021 season, which will be accentuated by the opening of a multi-purpose event center and a luxury 200-room hotel overlooking the track, is scheduled to run Friday, Jan. 22–Saturday, May 1.
In addition, 21 stakes will have their purses raised by at least $25,000, most notably are $150,000 increases to both the Essex H. Mar. 13 and Oaklawn Mile Apr. 10, which will be worth $500,000 and $400,000, respectively. The purse of the GIII Razorback H. on Saturday, Feb. 13 will be raised by $100,000 to $600,000. All stakes, including ones for state-breds, will be at least $150,000 each.
“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.”
Oaklawn’s rich 3-year-old program for horses with GI Kentucky Derby aspirations will begin opening day, Jan. 22, with the $150,000 Smarty Jones S. and will culminate closing day, May 1, with the $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational. In between are the $750,000 GIII Southwest S. Feb. 15, Presidents’ Day Monday, the $1-million GII Rebel S. Mar. 13, and the $1-million GI Arkansas Derby Apr. 10.
Oaklawn’s five signature races that comprise the traditional Racing Festival of the South will be run over three Saturdays starting with the $600,000 GIII Fantasy S. for 3-year-old fillies on GI Kentucky Oaks trail Apr. 3.
Oaklawn’s series for older horses culminates Apr. 17 with the $1-million GII Oaklawn H. and the $1-million GI 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’s 2021 stakes schedule features a total of 33 races worth $11,000,000. Racing will be conducted Friday-Sunday for the first two weeks of the meet and then shift to a Thursday-Sunday schedule starting in February. There will be racing on Presidents Day – Monday, Feb. 15, but there will be no racing on Easter Sunday, April 4.