Oaklawn plans to present a new proposed racing schedule to the Arkansas Racing Commission at their next meeting for approval. The 117-year-old race track is looking to add December race dates to its calendar and host a 66-day season that will run from Friday, December 3, 2021 to Sunday, May 8th, 2022.
"For many years, horsemen have wanted to race here in December to fill a gap in their racing stable," said Oaklawn President Louis A. Cella, "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."
The extended season will be conducted on Friday-Saturday race dates with a few exceptions. December 24-26th will be closed with no racing for the Christmas holiday as well as no racing on Easter, Sunday, April 17th. Racing will operate on Presidents' Day Monday, February 21, 2022.
"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," said Cella.
Purses for the season are projected at $45 million - $50 million with all allowance races starting at $100,000.
"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," says Oaklawn Racing Secretary Pat Pope.
"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," says Cella.
Trainers, such as Steve Asmussen, a Hall of Famer and 11-time Oaklawn leading trainer, "The more Oaklawn the better."
"Oaklawn's new dates allow us horsemen to participate in the most lucrative purse circuit in American without any interruptions," trainer Ron Moquette said. "It's now a smooth transition between Oaklawn, Churchill, and Saratoga."
Clint Bradberry from The Late Scratch Podcast talked to Vic Stauffer, Oaklawn track announcer who said, "Now more than ever Oaklawn is a national destination. Each and everyone of the 66 days will be a special event."