Arkansas’ Oaklawn Track Institutes Major Changes

Horse Racing Radar
Valerie Mellema
Valerie Mellema is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Sunday, November 1, 2020

The times, they are a-changing at Oaklawn Racing in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Specifically, the amount of time a trainer has to get a horse to the track and the number of days before a race the bronchodilator Clenbuterol or extracorporeal shock wave therapy can be administered to a racehorse. These are just a few of many new rules to be instituted at Oaklawn prior to its January 22-May 1, 2021 racing season.


The changes themselves are the results of cooperative work by several horseracing constabularies, including the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) and the Arkansas Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) in conjunction with the Oaklawn Racing Casino. The approval of their efforts depends upon action by the Arkansas state legislature.


Among the notable changes is a ban on the drug Clenbuterol within 60 days of a race. The acceptable amount of the diuretic Lasix will be cut in half and its use will be strictly limited in stakes races. Also closely regulated will be the use of extracorporeal shock wave therapy and similar treatment, which cannot be administered within 30 days of a race. This refers to the use of high energy waves to speed the healing of injuries.


In a move that parallels decisions made by other state racing commissions, Arkansas will limit the type of riding crop jockeys can use to whip horses. The new guidelines specify the types and brands that can be used.


Trainers and horse veterinarians must make their training and treatment records available to race vets upon request. Off-site training facilities will be asked to abide by the same rules and guidelines.


Race entries going forward must be scheduled at least four days in advance. Without special permission, horses must be at the racetrack 72 hours prior to a race in which they are scheduled to run.


The timing of the changes is meant to coincide with the great anticipation building for the 2021 Oaklawn racing season. This is one more indication that ARC anticipates not only a full racing schedule but the return of great fan support for its winter and spring meet. Oaklawn will host 33 different stakes races with a total purse of $11 million. This will represent the richest total earnings in the history of the track, which began running in 1903. Among the most important races in 2021 will be the GI Arkansas Derby and the GI Apple Blossom Handicap.


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