Oaklawn Park is a 112-year Hot Springs, Ark. tradition. (Photos by Eclipse Sportswire)
The track that launched American Pharoah’s campaign to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, Oaklawn Park is making plans for a blockbuster 112th season starting this Friday, Jan. 15 and wrapping up on April 16.
The Hot Springs, Ark. track has raised purses for the eighth straight year, and a record $27 million will be distributed during the meet with a daily average of $475,000. This is a 9.1 percent increase over last year.
These large purses helped attract stall applications for almost twice the number of horses the barn area can accommodate. These applications came from 149 trainers, including 33 trainers who have never raced full-time at Oaklawn.
This year’s opening weekend includes two highly-anticipated promotions. On Jan. 16, Oaklawn will again sell their famed corned beef sandwiches for $.50 and compliment this with $.10 soft drinks.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 18, Oaklawn will give away American Pharoah “bobblehorses.” Pharoah will become the fifth bobblehorse given away at Oaklawn, joining the prestigious list of Curlin, Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta and Smarty Jones, who all raced at Oaklawn during their respective championship seasons.
AMERICAN PHAROAH WINS THE 2015 ARKANSAS DERBY
MLK day also kicks off Oaklawn’s stretch of the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the points system that determines entry into that race, with the Smarty Jones Stakes. Oaklawn’s series continues with the Grade 3, $150,000 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18, the Grade 2, $900,000 Rebel Stakes on March 19 and the Grade 1, $1-million Arkansas Derby on April 16.
Triple Crown hopefuls who are pointed at the Oaklawn series include Synchrony, a son of top stallion Tapit and multiple stakes winner Brownie Points, trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel for Pin Oak Stable. This owner/trainer pair is also sending out Secret Passage, sired by Curlin, who has won his only two starts. Another colt by Tapit to watch is Gray Sky, trained by D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas is also training Z Royal for Zayat Stables. Other 3-year-olds to watch at Oaklawn include Knights Key, the son of Giant’s Causeway, who broke slowly in his debut and still managed to win, and Unexplained, who is by Ghostzapper and won his debut by four lengths at Churchill Downs.
This season, Oaklawn welcomes Pete Aiello to the announcer’s booth. He becomes only the track’s fifth announcer since 1904. Aiello, who is from Florida, will continue to call races in the summer at Gulfstream Park and at Gulfstream Park West.
What are you most excited about for Oaklawn’s 2016 season?