Arkansas Derby to again highlight Oaklawn season

07/31/2014 12:56 PM

07/31/2014 1:02 PM

Hot Springs, AR (SportsNetwork.com) - Oaklawn Park's 2015 racing season will again be highlighted by the $1 million Arkansas Derby with the Kentucky Derby prep coming on the track's closing card.

Oaklawn's 2015 season will begin Friday, Jan. 9 and end Saturday, April 11. The historic track will run 31 stakes worth $6,675,000.

"I am continually impressed by what we've been able to accomplish the past several years," Director of Racing David Longinotti said.

The Arkansas Derby is the culmination of Oaklawn's stakes series for 3-year- olds on the Kentucky Derby trail.

The race series for 3-year-olds gets underway with the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at a mile on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 19, followed by the 1 1/16-mile, $300,000 Southwest Stakes on President's Day, Feb. 16.

The 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes now has a purse of $750,000, up from $600,000. The Rebel, won in 2013 by Eclipse Award winner Will Take Charge, will go off on Saturday, March 14, four weeks ahead of the 79th Arkansas Derby.

"The timing of the Rebel and the quality of its field for the past several runnings makes it an important Triple Crown prep in its own right," Longinotti said. "It is very deserving of a purse increase."

On the Arkansas Derby card will be the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap for older horses, won this year by Will Take Charge. Older fillies and mares will compete in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on Friday, April 10. This year's leading older female Close Hatches captured the Apple Blossom over 2013 champ On Fire Baby.

"Last year, we were also able to boost the purse of both the Apple Blossom and the Oaklawn Handicap by $100,000 each and we're pleased to be able to keep those purses at the $600,000 level for 2015," noted Longinotti.

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