On Monday, Oaklawn Park presents a special holiday race card for Presidents Day. Here are eight things you should know about this blockbuster day of racing.
1. Presidents Day is Oaklawn’s third most attended race card, behind Arkansas Derby day and Rebel Stakes day. The past five years, the track has welcomed an average of more than 25,000 people for the holiday card.
2. The day features one of Oaklawn’s most popular promotions: the Progressive Cash Giveaway. Everyone receives an entry coupon at the gate. A $1,000 winner is drawn after race 1 and a $2,000 winner is drawn after race 2. The giveaway increases by $1,000 each race and culminates with $10,000 awarded after race 10. In all, $55,000 is distributed to lucky fans. The collective anticipation after each race is part of the day’s fun.
3. The Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds is one of 37 Kentucky Derby prep races. It is also the first leg of the Arkansas Triple Crown (the other two legs are the Grade 2, $750,000 Rebel Stakes and the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby). Oaklawn’s fourth Kentucky Derby prep race is the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, and it was run on Jan. 16.
4. Uncontested, whose wire-to-wire 5 ¼-length victory in the Smarty Jones set a race record, is the expected favorite of the Southwest. He will face Smarty Jones runner-up Petrov. The field also includes Lookin At Lee, who finished fourth in his last start in the Grade 1, $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
5. In 2002 and 2012, an abundance of entries led Oaklawn to split the Southwest into two divisions. In both years, they were run as races 8 and 9, and racegoers had the opportunity to bet on a special Southwest daily double. In 2012, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Rafael Bejarano won both legs.
6. The Grade 3, $500,000 Razorback Handicap is sharing the card with the Southwest Stakes for the first time. This race is for horses 4 years old and older, and it received an increased purse and a new date to offer horsemen a prep race option for races like the Dubai World Cup. Also, it is the second major local prep for the Grade 1, $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap April 15.
7. Gun Runner has shipped to Oaklawn for the Razorback. He won last year’s Louisiana Derby and then finished third in the Kentucky Derby. Gun Runner went on to finish in the top three in the Travers Stakes, Pennsylvania Derby and Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. In his most recent start, he won the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. He will be challenged by multiple stakes winner Shotgun Kowboy and Blue Tone, who is coming off a victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita.
8. The Razorback has ties to the University of Arkansas’s athletics program, the premier sporting interest in a state without professional leagues. The Razorback Handicap is named in honor of the university’s athletics mascot.