Arkansas Derby moves to April 2; Purse upped to $1.25million

Oaklawn Park has increased purses for their 2021-22 Winter-Spring meet
Oaklawn Park has increased purses for their 2021-22 Winter-Spring meet

Oaklawn Park have announced their Stakes Schedule for their Winter-Spring Meet in 2021-22 and the headline news is that the Arkansas Derby will now take place five weeks before the Kentucky Derby rather than the traditional spot of three weeks before the Run for the Roses. This means one of the premier Derby prep races will take place on April 2 in 2022.

This change of date is part of an elongated meet which will get underway on December 3 rather than the usual early January date. The other Prep races for the Derby will also be bumped up as the Smarty Jones becomes a New Year’s Day race and that purse increases to $250,000.

The Grade III Southwest Stakes moves to January 26 with the Grade II Rebel taking place on February 26. It is however the Arkansas Derby that trainers and connections will take most note of.

An increase in the purse to $1.25million for the Grade I race means that it will become the largest purse for a US based Kentucky Derby Prep Race. In 2021 both the Rebel Stakes and Louisiana Derby also had a $1,000,000 purse.

The extra two weeks gap between it and the Derby may well attract a bigger field giving them more time to train up horses away from the bright lights of racing for the big race.

With 36 Stakes Races scheduled for a track-record $12.3million for the upcoming meet, the attraction of racing at the Arkansas venue continues to only increase. With December running, the track will also offer a Stakes Race for two-year-olds for the first time since 1973, with the Advent Stakes being the Feature on Opening Day.

Allowance Races will see purses start at $100,000, which will be extremely enticing to trainers and connections. Oaklawn Racing Secretary Nick Pope said this on the issie, ‘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.’

Oaklawn President Louis Cella is excited about the changes saying the following a Press Release, ‘When we launched our $100 million expansion program two years ago, we said our goal was to take Oaklawn to a new level of excellence, When you look at next season’s stakes schedule, that includes five new stakes, you can see that is exactly what we are doing.’

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