Oaklawn is increasing the purses of five stakes and adding a stakes to the April 14 card just two weeks after announcing a significant bump to overnight purses.
Four stakes – the March 16 Essex Handicap, April 14 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), May 3 Oaklawn Mile and May 4 Oaklawn Invitational – have each been bumped $50,000, while the April 13 Count Fleet Handicap (G3), which was won last year by Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up Whitmore, has been increased by $100,000 to $500,000.
Additionally, the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes, which was not originally on the 2019 stakes schedule, has been brought back as a prep for the $250,000 Oaklawn Mile and will share the card with the $750,000 Apple Blossom April 14, the final day of the Racing Festival of the South. The $500,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) kicks off the Racing Festival April 12 and the Count Fleet is part of the supporting card April 13 featuring the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2).
“We couldn’t be any more excited about how the 2019 racing season has started and for the future of our racing program,” Oaklawn’s President Louis Cella said. “We have seen tremendous support for our races from around the country and locally, we’ve had great crowds that are staying after the races and enjoying our gaming area afterwards. And, there’s still over two months of racing remaining for people to enjoy one of the best entertainment destinations in the region.”
The $350,000 Essex Handicap for 4-year-olds and older is part of a rich card Saturday, March 16 that also includes the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares and the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail. The $250,000 Oaklawn Mile and $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational, which offers an automatic berth to the Preakness Stakes (G1) May 18, highlight the final two days of the 2019 season, May 3 and May 4, respectively.