- Oaklawn Park has expanded their live racing schedule to add December weekend dates.
- The 2021-2022 race meet will begin on December 3, 2021 and conclude on May 8, 2022. The stakes race schedule for the upcoming meet will be released later.
- Oaklawn Park is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
On balance, the more horse racing on the board the better. That’s why we’re treating the announcement from Oaklawn Park of an expanded racing meet for 2021-2022 as good news. The Hot Springs, Arkansas track is planning to expand their race meet into late December with a start date of December 3, 2021 and run through May 8, 2022. The track is ‘realigning’ its schedule of three year old Kentucky Derby prep races and will release a stakes event schedule at a later date.
The 66-day season will be run primarily on weekends though there are a few exceptions. A break is scheduled for the Christmas holiday so no racing December 24 through December 26. There will also be no racing on Easter Sunday, April 17. There will be a special Presidents’ Day program on Monday, February 21, 2022.
Oaklawn has dramatically upgraded their facilities during the past few years to include a luxury hotel, spa and conference center. Oaklawn President Louis A. Cella says the December racing dates are something that horsemen have wanted for quite some time:
“For many years, horsemen have wanted to race here in December to fill a gap in their racing schedule. We have completed our resort expansion, including the opening of our luxury hotel, spa and event center. Therefore, the timing is right for another expansion – to our live racing season.”
Oaklawn must now get approval for the expanded race meet from state regulators and it’s clear that he’ll focus on the economic and tourism benefits of more racing:
“We are looking forward to the new format. The additional days will provide a huge economic impact for horsemen, Arkansas Thoroughbred breeders and tourism in Central Arkansas.”
Cella also indicated that they’ll be making changes in their prep race schedule as part of the stakes lineup that will be released at a later date:
“We will offer 2-year-old racing in December and we anticipate additional exciting changes in our racing program, including an aggressive 2021-2022 stakes schedule. We are working on that now and will announce those changes soon. Suffice it to say that our stakes program will continue to be designed to attract the nation’s best horses and best horsemen to Hot Springs.”
The total purse structure for the season is projected at $45 million to $50 million, according a press release issued by the track. The track’s allowance races will start at $100,000. Racing secretary Pat Pope realizes the higher prestige that comes with higher purses:
“To be able to offer six-figure allowance races for five consecutive months is a very strong statement. Between the purses and all of our new amenities, we should be part of every horseman’s annual calendar.”
Not surprisingly, trainers are extremely excited about the revamped Oaklawn schedule:
Steve Asmussen has enjoyed more success at the track than anyone:
“I love it. The more Oaklawn, the better.”
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas thinks the move will benefit horsemen, racing fans and the entire sport:
“I’ve been an advocate for this for years. I think it’s a great addition and will keep our stables competitive. It’s also going to be a popular time. People are already in a festive mood around the holidays and the weather in December is usually pretty good. I think there is going to be a strong fan base. I’m 100% for it.”
Trainer Ron Moquett says it’s a matter of logistics:
“Oaklawn’s new dates allow us horsemen to participate in the most lucrative purse circuit in America without any interruptions. It’s now a smooth transition between Oaklawn, Churchill, and Saratoga.”
Oaklawn Park has a number of high profile Kentucky Derby prep races every year highlighted by the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. The 2015 Arkansas Derby was won by American Pharoah who went on to claim the Triple Crown.