Hot Springs, Ark. (Thursday, July 29, 2021) – Working in partnership with the Arkansas Racing Commission and the Arkansas HBPA (Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association), Oaklawn has announced, subject to regulatory approval, the prohibition of Clenbuterol or any other beta2-agonist within 120 days of a race. This restriction is part of Oaklawn’s ongoing commitment to enhancing the safety and integrity of its racing program.
Conducted by Industrial Labs, the presence of Clenbuterol and other beta2-agonist will be determined through blood, urine and hair follicle testing.
“Banning the use of Clenbuterol and other beta2-agonists further proves our commitment to the safety and integrity of our racing program,” said Oaklawn President Louis Cella. “Every decision we make is to enhance the experience of our horsemen and fans at Oaklawn. When we say “Racing First,’ we lead by example.”
Oaklawn’s 2021-2022 season runs from Friday, Dec. 3 to Sunday, May 8. The schedule features a total of 36 stakes worth $12,300,000, highlighted by the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and three $1 million stakes races – $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2), $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1). All allowance races will be worth a minimum of $100,000 as part of the richest purse structure in Oaklawn’s 118-year history.
ALLOWANCE RACES UP TO $110,000 AFTER 15% ACROSS THE BOARD INCREASE
Hot Springs, Ark. (Tuesday, March 9, 2021) – Oaklawn has announced the largest mid-season purse increase in the history of the track. Over the final eight weeks of the season, Oaklawn will pump another $2.5 million into overnight races, including increasing top allowance races to $110,000. The 15% across the board increase also takes maiden special weights to $93,000 and raises the bottom purse to $27,000.
“It’s been an interesting year to say the least, but it is very gratifying to announce this purse increase nearly a year after shutting the race meet and casino down to fans because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. “I wasn’t sure we’d get here a couple of weeks ago with all the bad winter weather, but our horsemen and fans are resilient. February ended with a tremendous weekend of racing and it was exciting to see fans back in the Infield last week. I have no doubt the final eight weeks of racing are going to be exciting, especially with some of our marquee races still to come.”
Saturday’s 12-race card will be highlighted by the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds with Arkansas Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) aspirations, as well as the $500,000 Essex Handicap, $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2), $200,000 Hot Springs Stakes, and $150,000 Temperence Hill Stakes. First post is 12 noon.
“Rebel Stakes weekend has grown to be almost as big as Arkansas Derby Day and we’re excited to be able to welcome more fans back just in time for the richest racing in our history,” General Manager Wayne Smith said. “Weather permitting, the Infield will be open every Saturday throughout the end of the meet. The Infield is truly a rite of spring and it was certainly missed last year.”
Oaklawn’s 2021 live meet continues through Saturday, May 1.
Located in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, Oaklawn has been one of the premiere Thoroughbred racetracks in the country since 1904, best known as home of the $1 million Arkansas Derby. The Vegas-style casino features slots, live table games, and sports betting year-round. Live racing held Jan-May and simulcast racing throughout the year. Opening early 2021 are a 200-room luxury hotel, multi-purpose event center, state-of-the-art spa and new dining options. Website – http://www.Oaklawn.com, Phone – 1-800-OAKLAWN.
Pending approval from the Arkansas Racing Commission, Oaklawn plans to conduct its regular 57-day meet highlighted by four $1 million stakes races – $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2), $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) – and the richest purse structure in its 117-year history. The 2021 season, which will be accentuated by the opening of a multi-purpose event center and a luxury 200-room hotel overlooking the track, is scheduled to run Friday, Jan. 22 – Saturday, May 1.
In addition, 21 stakes will have their purses raised by at least $25,000, most notably are $150,000 increases to both the Essex Handicap on March 13 and Oaklawn Mile on April 10, which will be worth $500,000 and $400,000, respectively. The purse of the Razorback Handicap (G3) on Saturday, Feb. 13 will be raised by $100,000 to $600,000. All stakes, including ones for state-breds, will be at least $150,000 each.
“We would not be able to once again offer record purses next year if it weren’t for the tremendous support we’ve received from the Arkansas Racing Commission, the horsemen, and our fans in 2020,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. “We are excited to continue building on our ‘New Level of Excellence,’ which will include our new hotel, event center, state-of-the-art spa, and additional restaurants, which are all on schedule to open late 2020/early 2021.”
Oaklawn’s rich 3-year-old program for horses with Kentucky Derby aspirations will begin opening day, Jan. 22, with the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes and will culminate closing day, May 1, with the $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational. In between are the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) on Feb. 15, Presidents’ Day Monday, the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) on March 13, and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 10.
Oaklawn’s five signature races that comprise the traditional Racing Festival of the South will be run over three Saturdays starting with the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies on Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail on April 3.
The $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), a major stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby, will be run on April 10 along with three other stakes. Oaklawn’s series for older horses culminates on April 17 with the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and the $1 million Apple Blossom (G1) for fillies and mares.
“Once finalized, the full purse program will be released soon,” added Oaklawn General Manager Wayne Smith. “We anticipate it will exceed $700,000 a day.”
Oaklawn’s 2021 stakes schedule features a total of 33 races worth $11,000,000. Racing will be conducted Friday–Sunday for the first two weeks of the meet and then shift to a Thursday–Sunday schedule starting in February. There will be racing on Presidents’ Day – Monday, Feb. 15, but there will be no racing on Easter Sunday, April 4.
Located in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, Oaklawn has been one of the premiere Thoroughbred racetracks in the country since 1904, best known as home of the $1 million Arkansas Derby. The newly expanded Vegas-style casino features slots, live table games, and sports betting year-round. Live racing held Jan-May and simulcast racing throughout the year. Opening early 2021 are a 200-room luxury hotel, multi-purpose event center, state-of-the-art spa and new dining options. Website – http://www.Oaklawn.com, Phone – 1-800-OAKLAWN.
Keeping with the trend that has become the norm over the last 14 years, Oaklawn’s purses are on the rise again.
Beginning with Saturday’s race card, Oaklawn will increase purses for all overnight races by as much as $4,000.
“This is only possible because of the tremendous support we continue to receive from our horsemen and fans,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. “We promised a New Level of Racing at the beginning of the season and we are delivering. Our field sizes (9.5 avg.) are among the highest in nation, we have horsemen participating from both coasts as well as the Midwest, and the fans are responding. We could not be more excited about the rest of the season.”
First level allowance races will be worth at least $90,000, after receiving a $4,000 increase, and maiden special weight races will be boosted to $87,000, with a $2,000 increase. Purses for all claiming races with a claiming price of $20,000 or more will also receive a $2,000 bump, and all other overnight purses are increasing by $1,000 per race.
“Everything is coming together nicely,” Oaklawn General Manager Wayne Smith said. “We have completed the expansion of our casino, and construction is moving right along on the hotel and event center. This is an exciting time for Oaklawn and we are very happy to share our good fortune with the horsemen. It’s awesome to be offering the richest winter racing in North America with allowance races starting over $90,000.”
The purse increase was welcome news to the horsemen.
“I think it’s great,” said trainer Mike Puhich, who is among several new trainers wintering at Oaklawn this year. “Most tracks are kind of hoarding the money, and these guys are throwing it back to the horsemen, which is always good. You love to see that.”
Added trainer Brad Cox, perennially among Oaklawn’s leading trainers. “We’re supporting the program already, but it’s great. These are the best purses in the country. It’s rewarding to show up and have a barn here. It makes it worth your while. It’s great for wintertime racing.”
“I try to run more horses where the money’s at,” owner Mike Waters said. “Every time Oaklawn announces a purse increase, the California and the East Coast guys all take notice. It’s a nice place to run for these purses, that’s for sure.”
One of the most iconic names in Thoroughbred racing and Arkansas tourism is adding a new level of excitement to its storied 115-year history. Oaklawn Racing & Gaming will now be known as Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. As a full-service casino, Oaklawn will begin offering live craps, live blackjack, and continue offering popular slot games Monday, April 1. It will be adding sports betting in the coming weeks.
“There has never been a more exciting time in Oaklawn’s history than right now,” Oaklawn’s President Louis Cella said. “We are already reaping the benefits of racing all the way through May 4 with amazing crowds and world-class racing. We couldn’t be more thrilled about our future as we continue to elevate Thoroughbred racing and strengthen regional tourism in Hot Springs and Arkansas.”
Oaklawn announced a $100 million expansion last November and will begin construction in early May. This expansion includes 28,000 square feet of additional gaming space that will open prior to the 2020 live racing season. The expansion also includes a 200-room luxury hotel with pool, spa and fitness center, a 14,000 square foot, multi-purpose entertainment center to open prior to the 2021 racing season along with additional dining options, and more.
As expected, one of Oaklawn’s signature races for 3-year-olds was divided into two divisions after 19 horses were entered Wednesday morning for Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 13. The split means the Rebel, originally a $1 million race, will be worth $1.5 million overall, with each division offering $750,000 and 63.75 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby to the top four finishers (37.5, 15, 7.5 and 3.75).
Oaklawn President Louis Cella said March 6 the track was prepared to split the Rebel to accommodate Southern California horsemen impacted by the move, The Rebel was originally scheduled to offer 85 points (50-20-10-5) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.
Oaklawn hadn’t split one of its Kentucky Derby prep races since the Southwest Stakes (G3) in 2012. The 1 1/16-mile Southwest originally carried a purse of $250,000 that year, but it was split after 21 horses were entered. Each division was worth $250,000.
Churchill Downs has used a points system in designated races to help determine Kentucky Derby starting eligibility since 2013. Graded stakes earnings had previously been used.
In an unprecedented move, the Oaklawn Jockey Club announced today [March 6, 2019] that it stands ready to split the $1 million Rebel Stakes on Saturday, March 16.
The announcement came just hours after Santa Anita racetrack in California announced it is suspending racing indefinitely due to poor weather and track conditions. The Santa Anita suspension has the potential to upend traditional West Coast prep races for the Kentucky Derby.
If the Rebel is split, each division will carry a purse of $750,000, and each division will offer 63.75 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.
In making the announcement, Oaklawn President Louis Cella said he hopes the situation in California resolves itself quickly, precluding any reason to split the Rebel. “But if that is not the case, Oaklawn stands ready to help horsemen around the country,” said Cella.
Cella added, “From a financial standpoint, splitting the race makes no sense whatsoever. If we split it, it will be strictly on the basis of sportsmanship and what is best for the sport and best for top three year olds trying to get to Kentucky.”
Cella said both divisions of the Rebel would need to attract a minimum of ten runners in order to justify the split.
According to Oaklawn general manager Wayne Smith, track officials were on the phone all day Wednesday with horsemen around the country. “Plus we reached out to Arkansas Racing Chairman Alex Lieblong and to Bill Walmsley, president of the Arkansas division of the HBPA. Both gentlemen were completely supportive of our offer.”
The deadline for nominating to the Rebel Stakes was to have been midnight, March 7. But, Smith said the deadline is going to be pushed back to midnight, Friday, March 8.
If the Rebel is split, it will be first time in American racing history for a million dollar race to be split and run in two divisions.
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.
The track where purses have been steadily rising for 11 straight years is at it again. Oaklawn is increasing all overnight purses, some as much as $6,000, retroactive to the Thursday, Feb. 14 card, which was drawn last Friday.
Maiden special weights and open allowances are being bumped $6,000 and are now $83,000 and $87,000, respectively. Purses for all claiming races with a claiming price of $16,000 or greater, maiden claiming races with a claiming price of $20,000 or greater and starter allowances are being increased by $3,000. All other races are being increased by $2,000.
“We’re off to a fantastic start because the fans have responded to great weather and great racing,” President Louis Cella said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the response we’ve gotten in support of our new race dates. We opened later and had one of the best opening weekends in 10 years.
“We are mindful of the fact that bigger purses bring in the best horses and human athletes, which in turns brings out the fans. Our goal is to have the richest and most competitive racing product in the country between January and early May.”
The purse increase comes at the start of a five-day race week highlighted by a special Monday card in celebration of Presidents’ Day. The Monday card features the $200,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares, the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses and the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3), the second of four races in Oaklawn’s rich series for 3-year-olds culminating with the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).
“I think from a horsemen’s perspective this shows that the late start has been successful and was a wise decision,” Arkansas H.B.P.A. President Bill Walmsley said. “The horsemen are already reaping the benefits in the form of this purse increase so quickly in the season. It is both unexpected and appreciated.”
“It’s fantastic,” said Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, who is spending his first winter in Hot Springs. “I’ve been praising the Cella family and their organization. They have a great organization and great people who work for them. And, now I think the horsemen are rallying around them. It’s a testament to how well you can work together in this business. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Oaklawn’s 2019 live meet continues through Saturday, May 4.
Oaklawn Racing and Gaming today announced plans to build an expansion project in excess of $100 million that includes the construction of a high-rise hotel, multi-purpose event center, a larger gaming area, and additional on-site parking.
The project is one of the largest hospitality investments in the history of Arkansas.
“This historic announcement represents a new chapter in the rich 114-year history of Oaklawn,” said Louis Cella, president of Oaklawn Jockey Club. “As we enhance the entertainment experience for our customers, we will also further elevate thoroughbred racing and help make Arkansas and Hot Springs even stronger regional tourism destinations.”
The yet-to-be-named hotel will be seven stories with 200 rooms, including two presidential suites. Amenities will include an outdoor swimming pool, a luxury spa, fitness center and restaurant.
“The hotel will offer a unique vantage point for our patrons in that it will overlook the track. Imagine the spectacular view as the horses are heading down the stretch,” said Cella. “Our goal is to achieve 4-star status.”
Adjacent to the hotel will be a 14,000 square-foot multi-purpose events center that will accommodate up to 1,500 people for various events such as concerts, meetings, banquets and weddings.
The project also includes the addition of approximately 28,000 square feet of gaming space and significantly expanded parking.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said the Oaklawn expansion will be monumental.
“The state of Arkansas is grateful to Louis and his family for their commitment to growing their business right here at home,” said Gov. Hutchinson. “This project, which will be financed exclusively with private funds, not only represents one of, if not the largest, tourism related expansion projects in our history, it will also rank among the state’s largest economic development projects in 2019.”
Kane Webb, director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, says the Oaklawn expansion will create more success stories for Arkansas’ thriving tourism industry.
“Hot Springs is already one of the top tourism destinations in the South,” said Webb. “This expansion will thrust Hot Springs into the category of the nation’s elite vacation and recreation locations.”
Cella says the development will create new partnership opportunities with the city of Hot Springs in that marketing efforts will be designed to complement those of the city’s. He says while various on-site amenities will be offered, Oaklawn will want guests to enjoy all that Hot Springs has to offer including Hot Springs National Park, lakes, hiking and biking trails, museums, restaurants, shopping and more.
Steve Arrison, CEO of the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission, says the events center and hotel rooms will be beneficial to Hot Springs and Arkansas.
“Oaklawn’s project will allow Hot Springs to attract more and larger meetings and conventions,” said Arrison. “This creates exciting opportunities for Hot Springs tourism.”
An expansion project of this magnitude, Cella says, requires years of planning and the development of infrastructure.
“While one may assume that today’s announcement comes in response to the passage of Issue 4 on November 6, we actually began planning for this during our last expansion in 2014,” said Cella. “Our goal then, as it is now, is to use a quality gaming experience to enhance racing and help attract even more great champions to Arkansas such as Smarty Jones, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah.”
Construction on the project will begin in May immediately following completion of the 2019 racing season. The target completion date for the gaming expansion is January 2020 with the hotel and event center to be completed in late 2020.
As it has for two previous Oaklawn projects, HBG Design of Memphis is the architectural firm for this new expansion.
Flintco Construction, with an Arkansas headquarters located in Springdale, is the contractor on the project. The company estimates that as many as 2,300 jobs will be created during the construction phase.
“The Cellas helped found Oaklawn in the early 1900’s,” said Wayne Smith, general manager of Oaklawn. “As they have for more than a century, the family continues to make significant investments in Arkansas. This will be the third major project at Oaklawn since 2008.”
This major expansion represents the second significant announcement at Oaklawn since Louis Cella succeeded his late father, Charles, as president of Oaklawn Jockey Club last December.
In April of this year, Oaklawn announced it will shift its racing season later in the calendar and for the first time will continue racing into May. It’s the biggest change in the traditional Oaklawn racing schedule since World War II.
Expansion Project Fact Sheet
About the project:
Oaklawn is investing in excess of $100 million to further elevate thoroughbred racing and make Oaklawn and Hot Springs an even stronger regional tourism destination.
The Oaklawn expansion will be one of the largest hospitality investments in the history of Arkansas.
This is a private investment. No public dollars are being used.
The project will focus on five main areas:
Enhanced racing experience
4-star hotel and spa
Multi-purpose event center
Expanded gaming area
Additional on-site parking
This expansion project has been in the planning stages since 2014.
This will be Oaklawn’s third major construction project since 2008.
About the hotel/multi-purpose event center:
The hotel will be 7 stories tall with 200 luxury rooms, including two presidential suites.
The goal is for the hotel to achieve 4-star status.
The hotel will offer patrons a unique vantage point in that it will overlook the racetrack on one side with a beautiful view of the lakes and mountains on the other.
Room rates will be competitive with other properties of this quality.
The hotel will include:
outdoor swimming pool
multi-purpose event center
individual meeting rooms
The 14,000 square-foot multi-purpose event center will accommodate up to 1,500 people for events ranging from concerts, to meetings, to banquets, to weddings.
Oaklawn is working with the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission to ensure that the multi-purpose event center compliments efforts of the Hot Springs convention center and arena. The partnership will help attract more and larger meetings and conventions to the city.
The project includes expanded on-site parking to accommodate more vehicles.
A shuttle service will be available to transport patrons from their vehicles to the facility. Shuttle stops will be strategically located throughout the parking areas.
About the gaming expansion:
The new expansion will add approximately 28,000 square-feet of gaming space.
The enhanced gaming experience will allow Oaklawn to provide larger purses to help attract the top thoroughbreds joining a long line of champions such as Smarty Jones, Zenyatta and American Pharoah.
About the construction:
HBG Design of Memphis is the architectural firm on the project. This will represent the firm’s third expansion design for Oaklawn.
Flintco Construction, with Arkansas headquarters located in Springdale, is the contractor on the project. Flintco has managed major construction projects all over Arkansas.
Construction will begin in May, immediately following the completion of the 2019 racing season.
Target completion dates:
Gaming expansion – January 2020
Hotel and multi-purpose event center – Late 2020
About economic impact:
Oaklawn’s reputation as a year-round tourism destination will be enhanced. Hotel guests will have easy access to Hot Springs National Park, area lakes, hiking and biking trails, museums, amusement parks, and restaurants representing a significant economic impact to the city of Hot Springs and the state of Arkansas.
Flintco estimates that as many as 2,300 construction jobs will be created during the construction phase.
Though a specific number is still under consideration, Oaklawn anticipates several hundred additional jobs will be created in expanded areas.
About the Oaklawn principals:
Louis Cella, president of Oaklawn Jockey Club, succeeded his late father, Charles, in December 2017. The Cella family were among the founding partners in Oaklawn in the early 1900s. Louis is a graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Law, past Chairman of the Arkansas Cancer Research Center Foundation, Director of the UAMS Foundation Fund Board and Director of the Myeloma Institute. Louis’ wife, Rochelle Dean, is from England, Arkansas.
Wayne Smith, general manager of Oaklawn, joined the racetrack in 2016 with extensive experience in working with resort properties around the world for ITT-Sheraton, MGM Grand and Caesar’s Entertainment. He also worked for Empire City Racing and Gaming in New York and Penn Gaming in Illinois.