Not only will the 2019 Oaklawn Park meet have a new look but also new stakes and an enhanced purse for one of their primary Triple Crown preps as well.
As previously revealed by the track, Oaklawn will start later and race into May for the first time in 2019. Opening day of the 57-day session is scheduled for Friday, January 25, with closing day on Saturday, May 4, Kentucky Derby Day.
The purse of the Rebel (G2), the track’s penultimate Derby prep scheduled for March 16, has been raised from $900,000 to $1 million. That gives Oaklawn two $1 million preps for the Triple Crown as the Arkansas Derby (G1) carries that purse again for its April 13 renewal.
“The Rebel Stakes has become a significant prep in its own right and warrants a one-million dollar purse with runners like Smarty Jones, Lookin at Lucky, Curlin, Oxbow, Will Take Charge, American Pharoah and Creator,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. “We’re extremely proud to offer the richest and most proven path to the Triple Crown.”
Other stakes getting a purse increase include the Fantasy (G3) for three-year-old fillies, which was raised from $400,000 to $500,000, and the Bayakoa (G3) for fillies and mares, which was bumped from $150,000 to $200,000. The latter will be run on the Presidents’ Day holiday card, February 18, along with the Southwest (G3) and Razorback H. (G3), each worth $500,000.
In another notable change, the $700,000 Apple Blossom H. (G1) for fillies and mares will now be run on Sunday, April 14, the day after the Arkansas Derby. Previously, the race had been run the day before the Derby.
Oaklawn will also inaugurate two stakes in 2019: the $200,000 Oaklawn Mile for four-year-olds and up on May 3, and the $250,000 Oaklawn Invitational for three-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on May 4.
“We couldn’t be more excited about our new stakes and racing schedule,” Cella said. “We are now able to present some of our best racing during the best time of the year weather-wise in Arkansas. While the Racing Festival of the South will remain the focal point of the season, we look forward to growing the new stakes races and providing our fans with world-class racing into May.”