Oaklawn Park Moves Arkansas Derby to May 2

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The horses vie for the early lead in the 2019 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Oaklawn Park’s signature race — the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby — will be moved from April 11 to May 2, the closing day of the live meet, the track announced March 20.

Because the casino and racetrack were closed to the public, Oaklawn could have raced with purses intact through April 18, but, upon discussions with the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, decided instead to reduce purses across the board and “stay until May.”

As a result, the Arkansas Derby purse will be reduced to $750,000.

Churchill Downs understands the circumstances created by the current health crisis, and, therefore, will allow the full 170 points toward Kentucky Derby eligibility [now scheduled for Sept. 5] as long as we meet the minimum purse threshold of $750,000,” Oaklawn president Louis Cella said. “The purse reductions are across the board. If operations return to normal between now and May, we will adjust them accordingly.”

Of the 170 points toward Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve eligibility, 100 points will be awarded to the winner. The remaining points will be distributed on a 40, 20, 10 scale to the second- through fourth-place finishers.

Oaklawn is also moving the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies to May 1 and will reduce its purse to $400,000, but, like the Arkansas Derby, it will still offer the full 170 points toward eligibility in the Longines Kentucky Oaks, which is now scheduled for Sept. 4.

The Arkansas Derby and Fantasy are among 15 remaining stakes at Oaklawn that have had their purses reduced along with all overnight purses. Other date changes include: the Oaklawn Invitational Stakes, which moves to April 11 and will carry a $200,000 purse; the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, which moves to April 18 and now shares the card with the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap; and the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, which moves to the Arkansas Derby undercard May 2.

“We are trying to make the best of a bad situation,” Cella said. “And we greatly appreciate the cooperation we have received from our horsemen and the Arkansas Racing Commission.”

An announcement regarding all ticket sales and dining reservations will be made at a later date.

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