Oaklawn Planning 57-Day Meet with Four $1 Million Stakes in 2021
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 Rebel Stakes (G2), $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) – 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 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 (G3) 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 Kentucky Derby aspirations will begin opening day, Jan. 22, with the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes and will culminate closing day, May 1, with the $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational. In between are the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) on Feb. 15, Presidents’ Day Monday, the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) on March 13, and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 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 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies on Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail on April 3.
The $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), a major stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby, will be run on April 10 along with three other stakes. Oaklawn’s series for older horses culminates on April 17 with the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and the $1 million Apple Blossom (G1) 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.
Located in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, Oaklawn has been one of the premiere Thoroughbred racetracks in the country since 1904, best known as home of the $1 million Arkansas Derby. The newly expanded Vegas-style casino features slots, live table games, and sports betting year-round. Live racing held Jan-May and simulcast racing throughout the year. Opening early 2021 are a 200-room luxury hotel, multi-purpose event center, state-of-the-art spa and new dining options.