Oaklawn News

Thanks fans, horsemen for support during expansion project

Enjoying some of the best thoroughbred horse racing in the nation will be a little easier in 2015.

Charles J. Cella, President of Oaklawn Jockey Club, announced today that the historic thoroughbred racing center is waiving its $2.00 general admission fee for the thoroughbred racing season beginning next month.

Cella said Oaklawn wanted to celebrate the completion of an expansion project that began 18 months ago, and at the same time wanted to express its appreciation to racing fans for their support of thoroughbred racing at Oaklawn over the past 110 years.

“Trying to operate while doing major construction is never easy and always a challenge,” Cella said. “Our fans and our horsemen have shown great patience and support during this period. We wanted to do something to express our appreciation, and we felt this gesture would be a good way to simply and sincerely say, ‘thank you.’”

The current expansion project began in April of 2013.  It is scheduled to be completed by the end of December, just days before the 2015 racing season begins Friday, January 9. Cella said based on interest from horse owners wanting to race in Arkansas, early reservations and a projection of a record purse distribution, the 2015 racing season is shaping up to be “sensational.”

Among the horses expected for the 2015 meet are Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Take Charge Brandi, Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Work All Week and Breeders’ Cup Distaff runner-up Don’t Tell Sophia.

The 2015 Oaklawn racing season will mark the seventh consecutive year of increased purses. The total purse projection for the meet is more than $23 million, and maiden special weight races will carry purses of $60,000 -- $5,000 more than when the 2014 season opened. Open allowance races will offer purses up to $65,000, and the minimum purse will be $18,000. Purses at Oaklawn have risen by more than one-third since the initial opening of the gaming center, and the quality of racing has tracked right along with it.

Fans attending the races at Oaklawn during that time frame have been able to witness some of the true stars of the sport, such as two-time Horse of the Year Curlin; superstar Horse of the Year Zenyatta and 3-year-old filly sensation Rachel Alexandra. Other champions during the past decade that have raced at Oaklawn include Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Lookin at Lucky, and two Champion 3-Year-Olds owned by Arkansans, Summer Bird and Will Take Charge.

Oaklawn received requests for nearly 3,000 stalls for the 2015 racing season, double the quantity that it can house. Horsemen returning will include Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, the trainer of Will Take Charge and 2013 Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow; Randy Morse, who will have Grade 1 winner Moonshine Mullin in his stable again, Ken McPeek, Steve Hobby, Chris Richard, Ron Moquett and Donnie K. Von Hemel.

Six-time Sovereign Award winning trainer Mark Casse returns for his second straight year and will be joined by newcomers Wayne Catalano, Mike Stidham, Steve Margolis and Tony Dutrow, among others. Six-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen also returns, and is expected to start both Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Untapable and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile runner-up Tapiture in stakes engagements during the season.