HOT SPRINGS, AR (July 19, 2023) – The richest 3-year-old prep series in the nation gets even richer in 2024 as Oaklawn announced today it is pumping nearly $1 million more into the purses for its most important races for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds.
Oaklawn increased the purses of the four races pointing toward the Kentucky Derby a total of $600,000, with the Arkansas Derby (G1) bumped to $1,500,000 from $1,250,000; the Rebel Stakes (G2) going to $1,250,000 from $1,000,000; and the Southwest (G3) and Smarty Jones increasing to $800,000 and $300,000, respectively.
The purses for the three races for 3-year-old fillies with Kentucky Oaks aspirations were also increased substantially, with the Fantasy Stakes (G3) increased to $750,000; the Honeybee (G3) to $400,000 and the Martha Washington to $250,000 – a total increase of $300,000.
Purses were also increased for 14 additional stakes races, including the two most important races for older runners. The Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) and the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) were both increased to $1,250,000, jumping the total purses in the stakes program to a record $16.2 million.
Oaklawn also added two new races to the stakes schedule for 3-year-old sprinters, the six-furlong $150,000 Ozark and the $150,000 Mockingbird for 3-year-old fillies, bringing the total number of stakes races to 47, also an Oaklawn record.
“It’s absolutely remarkable how our stakes program has grown in recent years,” said Oaklawn President Louis Cella. “We’ve doubled the number of stakes we offer and have added millions to the purses. We want our fans to have the opportunity to see some of the top thoroughbreds in the country, and increasing the purses to this level will bring those horses. This is what our stakes program is all about.”
There will be one bonus event during the upcoming season and it has nothing to do with racing. It’s the rare total eclipse of the sun on Monday, April 8. A narrow path of totality will run through Arkansas with Oaklawn at the very center. General Manager Wayne Smith said, “We anticipate people coming here from around the world for this special solar phenomenon, so I would urge everyone to make their racing and eclipse reservations early, whether at Oaklawn’s own resort hotel or elsewhere in the area.”
Smith pointed out that people in any one particular area only get to see a total eclipse once every 360 years. “They don’t come around that often. And that’s why this one is going to be a blast,” he said.
Oaklawn’s 2023-2024 season will kick off on Friday, December 8, 2023, and continue for 66 race days through the first Saturday in May. Racing will generally be Friday through Sunday throughout the season, but Thursdays will be added to the racing calendar in parts of March and April.