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Jed Doro Named Director of Racing at Oaklawn

October 6, 2018

Oaklawn announced today the hiring of Jerome “Jed” Doro as Director of Racing. Jed will start the week of September 24.

Doro comes to Oaklawn from Delaware Park where he has spent the last 10 years. He was named that track’s Racing Secretary in 2014 after serving as Assistant Racing Secretary to Pat Pope, who is also Oaklawn’s longtime Racing Secretary. Doro had previously assisted Pope with Oaklawn condition books and he served as Assistant Director of Racing during the 2014 race season. Doro, who has several family members in racing, got his start working as a hot walker in 1998 in the barn of trainer Tony Dutrow. His first job in a racing office came at Colonial Downs and he held a variety of positions at the Maryland Jockey Club including claims clerk and paddock judge before moving to Delaware Park.

“We’re delighted to have Jed and welcome him back as a member of the Oaklawn family,” General Manager Wayne Smith said. “Jed’s background and experience will be a great addition as we continue to grow racing at Oaklawn. His hiring continues to strengthen an already great racing team. We couldn’t be more excited about our program as we move closer to racing in 2019. Remember, Stay Until May!”

“I couldn’t be more thrilled about getting back to Hot Springs and reacquainting myself with the track and horsemen,” Doro said. “I really enjoyed my time there in 2014 and it’s amazing how much the program has grown over the last few years. I’m looking forward to helping to continue that growth into the future. Oaklawn is one of the top racetracks in the country and one that is steeped in tradition. I’m honored to be part of the team.”

Doro and his wife, Tiffany, have two daughters, Dulaney and Baden.

The 2019 live season at Oaklawn begins Friday, Jan. 25 and runs through Saturday, May 4.

Oaklawn Posts Double-Digit Handle Increase Behind Record Prep Days

Led by record-setting GI Arkansas Derby and GII Rebel S. days, Oaklawn Park reported an 11% increase in total handle during its recently-concluded 2018 season.

An estimated crowd of 64,500 turned out Apr. 14 to watch undefeated ‘TDN Rising Star’ Magnum Moon (Malibu Moon) capture the GI Arkansas Derby, contributing to a total handle of $16,159,771 on the 12-race card, a figure that broke the previous single-day record of $15,133,537 set on Arkansas Derby day in 2000. Four weeks earlier, 37,500 saw Magnum Moon capture the Rebel on a day that handled $10,771,984, the highest non-Arkansas Derby Day yield in the 114-year history of the track.

“Despite missing two days due to weather in January and 16 inches of rain in February, we are extremely excited to have ended the meet with a double-digit increase in handle,” General Manager Wayne Smith said. “It’s a testament to the great product we were able to put on the track this season. I want to thank the owners, trainers and jockeys who put on the greatest show in racing. I also want to thank our entire management team and staff for such an incredible season. Most of all, a huge thank you goes out to our fans for their continued support.”

The Hot Springs oval raced 55 of 57 days for total handle of $209,695,403. The average total daily handle of $3,812,644 was up 15% over 2017. Export handle also saw the big gains during the 2018 season, growing by 15% to $175,125,149 despite racing two fewer days than 2017.

Oaklawn will start a new tradition in 2019 when it opens Friday, Jan. 25 and continues its season through Saturday, May 3, marking the first time that the track has raced after Arkansas Derby Day. The 2019 Arkansas Derby will be run Saturday, Apr. 13.

Oaklawn Park to Extend 2019 Meet Three Weeks

Oaklawn Park 2019 meet will run through first Saturday in May.

 

Oaklawn Park plans to make the most significant change to its racing schedule since World War II.

The Arkansas oval is a momentum-driven meet that traditionally runs its biggest race, the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), on closing day. But in 2019, Oaklawn will open Jan. 25 and run through May 4, three weeks after the Arkansas Derby. Other than 1945, when the track had to postpone its season until the fall because of wartime restrictions, Oaklawn has traditionally concluded its racing season with the Arkansas Derby in mid-April.

Late April 11, the Arkansas Racing Commission unanimously approved Oaklawn’s request to race 57 days in 2019, a dramatic philosophical shift for a track that prides itself on the status quo. Oaklawn’s new schedule pushes its start date two weeks later than normal and end date three weeks later than normal, meaning dates for the Hot Springs, Ark., oval will conflict, or further conflict, with venues that normally receive its horses following the meet’s conclusion.

“Frankly, it’s all about the weather,” said Oaklawn President Louis Cella, whose family has owned Oaklawn for more than a century. “We wanted to make sure that was right for the city of Hot Springs. This was not just a one-dimensional decision, just for Oaklawn. This is for our horsemen. We hear it all the time over the years. Can we get out of January?”

Oaklawn was scheduled to race 57 days this year, but it lost two dates in January to winter weather. Over the last decade, Oaklawn has lost 14 days in January due to winter weather.

“I love it,” trainer Mac Robertson said of the new schedule. “I hate January racing. January is just a hard month to train in Arkansas. Now, they’ll even get better horses coming in.”

Cella said the new schedule, which was endorsed by the Arkansas division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, had been discussed for “every bit of three years,” adding his late father, Charles, was aware of the talks. Charles Cella, known for being fiercely independent, was Oaklawn’s president from 1968 until his death in December.

Louis Cella said talk of the new dates began to intensify last summer. But word of a potential change didn’t begin to leak out until late March.

“It has been a secret, and we tried to keep it internally,” Cella said. “However, there are no secrets at a racetrack. I was walking through the grandstand last week and I had two fans come up to me, slapping me on the back, congratulating me with the new schedule.”

Asked if the new dates open the possibility of installing a turf course or reviving 2-year-old racing for the first time since the 1970s, Cella said, “No and No.”

“But I never want to cut it off and say ‘No,’ definitively,” Cella said. “But that’s not on the radar. That’s not something we’ve discussed, nor is this a decision that we’ve made in anticipation of that.”

David Longinotti, Oaklawn’s director of racing, said the new schedule will not change the placement of the Arkansas Derby, which will continue to be run three weeks before the Kentucky Derby, or the normal Thursday-Sunday racing format.

Oaklawn has run the Arkansas Derby three weeks before the Kentucky Derby every year since 1996. It had previously been two weeks before the Run for the Roses. Now, Oaklawn’s 2019 season will end on Kentucky Derby Day.

At this time, Longinotti said he doesn’t envision any plans to alter the 3-year-old stakes schedule for males or females.

“My guess is, if I were a gambling man, I’d probably put the Smarty Jones (Stakes, G3) on opening day, and then progress from there with our 3-year-old series,” Longinotti said. “We still have 57 days to cover. We’ve got one more weekend to cover than we did this year, 15 weekends instead of 14. Lots of meetings between Sunday and probably late June and early July.”

“This is going to be great for racing and great for Arkansas,” Arkansas Racing Commission Chairman Alex Lieblong said. “I applaud Mr. Cella and Oaklawn for thinking outside the box. This is proof again of their commitment to quality racing.”

Arkansas Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Board (HBPA) members agreed.

“We are essentially trading January race days, when there is always the chance of cancellation due to weather, for April race dates, when Arkansas weather is at its finest,” said board member Bill Walmsley, who has served as national president of the organization. “The later closing should be an additional enticement to the top racing stables to come to Arkansas, and continuing to race following the Arkansas Derby will keep the excitement for racing going another three weeks.”

Linda Gaston, President of the Arkansas HBPA Chapter, said the shift will create more exciting days of racing.

“This makes all the sense in the world,” she said. “Oaklawn is one of the top tracks in America with some of the richest purses. It stands to reason that showcasing racing in the best possible weather will benefit the entire program. Our board supported this plan unanimously.”

The change to the racing calendar will also have an impact on the economy for Hot Springs and Central Arkansas, according to Gary Troutman, President of the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce and Metro Partnership.

“Oaklawn has always been one of the pillars of our economy,” Troutman said. “This change to the racing schedule will greatly enhance our local businesses that rely on racing fans coming to town.”

Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, agreed. “Oaklawn continuing to race after the Arkansas Derby should be a major bonus to the tourism business in our area,” he said. “The weather is always better in April and May than it is in early January, and that will mean larger crowds at Oaklawn. This means more visitors at our hotels and restaurants, so it’s a win-win.”

Oaklawn will maintain its regular Thursday—Sunday schedule. In addition, it will race Presidents’ Day, Feb. 18. The Arkansas Derby, which has become one of the most productive Triple Crown prep races over the last 15 years, will be run April 13.

“Arkansas Derby Day will still be the pinnacle of the season,” Cella said. “But now, live racing at Oaklawn will also be part of the Kentucky Derby experience three weeks later, when our racing fans will be able to cheer on the horses representing them in Louisville.”

Oaklawn has never hesitated to try new things. In the 1970s, Oaklawn founded the Racing Festival of the South, whose multi-stakes card format has been copied by numerous racetracks. In the ’90s, Oaklawn was the first track to implement full-card commingled simulcasting, which is now a staple around the world. At the turn of the 21st century, Oaklawn created Instant Racing, which eventually led to the creation of Electric Games of Skill and 18 consecutive seasons of purse increases.

Based on traditional dates of other tracks, Oaklawn’s new schedule means it will overlap with Keeneland‘s entire spring meet, the first week of Churchill Downs, and a handful of days at Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie and Prairie Meadows.

Trainer Will VanMeter has wintered at Oaklawn every year since going out on his own in 2013, but he also has strong ties to Keeneland.

VanMeter grew up in Lexington—his father Tom is a prominent Kentucky sales consigner and equine veterinarian—and has permanent stabling in Keeneland’s Rice Road barn area.

“We had to beg, borrow, and steal just to get a foothold there,” said VanMeter, a former assistant under Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. “We don’t want to lose it.”

VanMeter said it will be difficult to predict how things will shake out until the new schedule is run for the first time.

“I think it’s going to affect everybody on an individual basis because every individual trainer, owner, (and) jockey have different goals, different desires to compete at different jurisdictions,” VanMeter said. “Us personally, Keeneland and Oaklawn are the two places that we want to compete and have a presence at. We’re going to find a way to satisfy both those desires.”

VanMeter’s biggest client is Arkansas lumberman John Ed Anthony, who has campaigned Eclipse Award winners Temperence Hill, Vanlandingham, and Prairie Bayou. VanMeter is scheduled to receive his first horse for another prominent Arkansas owner, Frank Fletcher, when the Oaklawn meeting ends Saturday.

“I think the future of racing is very strong in both places,” VanMeter said. “We want to grow our business through people that want to compete at Oaklawn and people that want to compete at Keeneland. We’re going to find a way to make it work.”

OAKLAWN HOSTS TRACK SUPERS CONFERENCE

Oaklawn Park hosted representatives from more than 80 racing-related entities from the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Puerto Rico and France at the 17th annual Track Superintendents Conference Mar. 25 – Mar. 27. Presentations and displays focuses on topics pertaining to safety, injurties, new turf courses, equine equipment and racetrack geometry. “This conference is unique in our industry and Oaklawn is proud to host the event,” Oaklawn Plant Superintendent John Hopkins said. “Track Superintendents are responsible for providing a safe and fair racing surface for both equine and human athletes. They play a vital role in the protection of horses and riders. Getting the opportunity to host a gathering of them from around the world is important to the industry. We can learn a lot from each other.”

No Human or Equine Injuries in Small Oaklawn Fire

Dorm room fire has displaced several residents.

No people or horses were injured March 6 after a small fire in a dorm room on the Oaklawn Park backstretch.

Track spokeswoman Jennifer Hoyt said the fire occurred at about 5:45 a.m. local time Tuesday in a dorm above the Swaps barn on the backstretch of the Hot Springs, Ark. track. She said firefighters quickly responded and put out the fire before it spread.

Hoyt said about a half-dozen residents were displaced by the dorm fire. She said Tuesday morning that track officials were assisting them in relocation efforts.

About 40 horses were moved from the barn during the fire. They were able to return to their stalls in the same barn by about 7 a.m.

“It was impressive to see our horsemen working together, helping one another,” Hoyt said. “They’ll compete on the track but when somebody’s in need, they all just jump in.”

Track Superintendents to Meet in March at Oaklawn Park

Event is open to all track superintendents and staff.

Track Superintendents Field Day March 25-27 at Oaklawn Park.

Event founder Roy Smith said the event is open to all track superintendents and staff.

“We welcome and urge tracks to invest in sending your team,” Smith said. “The information shared and the industry networking are valuable resources relied upon long after the event concludes”

Featured speakers include: On Track Consulting with Javier Barajas, Dr. Kathy Anderson, DVM, Eric Jackson of Oaklawn Park, Dr. Scott McClure, DVM, Dr. Andy Roberts, DVM, Scott Dutile with Dale Carnegie, and a jockey panel (Gary Stevens, Alex Birzer, Channing Hill).

Attending Superintendents will be eligible to win prizes like the use of an Exmark Zero-Turn Mower and a John Deere Gator. Sponsors pay for the event; attendees only need to cover lodging and travel expense.

The superintendents are an independent group which meets annually to discuss best practices related to maintenance, safety, and operational issues for racing and training facilities worldwide.

“We look forward to welcoming all participants to Oaklawn for some Southern hospitality. We are honored to host the event and know it is a worthy investment attending, said plant superintendent John Hopkins.

All are encouraged to attend, whether it is a Thoroughbred track, Standardbred track or training facility.

The 2018 sponsors include host track Oaklawn Park, and the 2018 Title Sponsor is Equine Equipment.

Other event sponsors include: Toro, Exmark, Massey Ferguson, Farm Paint, Rhino AG, Horsemen’s Track and Supply, Double R Manufacturing, NTRA Advantage, Sherwin Williams, John Deere, Arbico Organics, Sun Coast Commercial, Clear Span, Stabilizer Solutions, Batts, Inc., On Track Consulting, Indiana Grand Racing & Casinoand Keeneland.

Sunday, March 25

1:00 PM            Day of Racing at Oaklawn Park

6:00 PM            Welcome Reception sponsored by Double R Stalls & Horsemen’s Track & Equipment

Monday, March 26

7:15AM            Breakfast sponsored by Duralock Performance Fencing

8:00AM            Welcome to Oaklawn Park – Moderator: Nancy Ury-Holthus

8:15AM            Oaklawn History, Eric Jackson

9:00AM            Dr Kathy Anderson, DVM

10:00AM          John Deere, Auston Till

10:30AM          Break sponsored by Rhino Ag

10:45AM          Dr Scott McClure, DVM

11:45AM          Group Photo

12:15PM          Lunch sponsored by On Track Consulting, Javier Barajas

1:15 PM           New Turf Courses, Glen Kozak & Irwin Driedger

2:15-4:15PM    Vendor Workshops & Equipment Demonstrations

4:15 PM           Load Trolleys

4:30 PM           Transportation to Dinner Cruise

5-8 PM    Dinner Cruise sponsored by Toro & eXmark; grand prize winner announced

Tuesday, March 27

7:15AM            Breakfast sponsored by Equine Equipment

8:00AM            Dr Andy Roberts, DVM

9:00AM            Harness Track Panel, Gary Wolfe & Greg Cardenas

9:45AM            Break sponsored by Indiana Grand & Keeneland Race Course

10:00AM          Scott Dutile with Dale Carnegie sponsored by Massey Ferguson

11:00AM          Racetrack Geometry, Dr Mick Peterson

12:00PM          Lunch sponsored by John Deere

1:00PM            Jockey Panel, Gary Stevens, Alex Birzer & Channing Hill

2:00PM            Track Superintendent Trivia & Cash Prizes!

2:30PM            Oaklawn On-Track, Kevin Seymour

3:00PM            GRAND PRIZE WINNERS ANNOUNCED!  John Deere Gator

3:05PM            Superintendent Round Table (Track Supers only)

6:00PM            Dinner sponsored by Oaklawn Park

OAKLAWN INCREASES OVERNIGHT PURSES FOR 18th STRAIGHT YEAR

Hot Springs, Ark. (Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018) – The richest purses in the Midwest just got richer.

Effective Saturday, Feb. 17, Oaklawn is increasing all allowance and maiden special weight races by $3,000. Allowance races will range from $79,000 to as high as $83,000. Maiden special weight races will increase to $78,000 from $75,000.

In addition, all claiming races and maiden claiming races with a claiming price of at least $30,000 will receive a $2,000 per race boost.
These increases mark the 18th consecutive year that Oaklawn has increased purses.

“Our goal is to offer the best purses in the country along with the most competitive racing,” General Manager Wayne Smith said. “These increases are another step in that direction and our fans are responding. We are attracting some of the largest crowds in racing. And, our fans are getting to see some of the best owners, trainers and jockeys from all over the country competing for record purses. We couldn’t be more excited heading into the final two months of our season.”

Oaklawn’s Presidents’ Day card, Feb. 19, will feature the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby trail and the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3), which last year launched the Horse of the Year campaign of Gun Runner. The 2018 meet runs through Saturday, April 14.

Oaklawn Issues Ban Amid EHV-1 Positives

Horses from Belmont Park and Laurel Park will not be allowed on the grounds.

 

Following the news of equine herpesvirus-1 positives at both Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., and Laurel Park in Baltimore, Md., Oaklawn Park announced Jan. 21 that horses stabled at either track will be prohibited from entering the Hot Springs, Ark., grounds until further notice.

The first case of EHV-1 was reported by the New York Racing Association after an unraced 3-year-old trained by Linda Rice from Belmont’s Barn 44 tested positive Jan. 9.

NYRA placed the horse in an isolation barn immediately after the first positive test was revealed at the Cornell Ruffian Equine Hospital, where the horse was treated for a fever and what was described by officials as “a mild respiratory issue.”

All horses in Barn 44 were then placed under quarantine and barred from racing at Aqueduct Racetrack or training with other horses.

Subsequently, the Maryland Jockey Club issued a ban of three horses housed in Barn 44 that were scheduled to run in the Jan. 20 Fire Plug Stakes at Laurel.

A follow-up test of the initial affected horse returned positive Jan. 19, which resulted in an extension of the precautionary quarantine at Belmont.

Sal Sinatra, president and general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club, issued a statement Jan. 20 that a horse who shipped to Laurel tested positive for EHV-1.

The horse was removed from the grounds and the barn he was stabled in was placed under quarantine. A follow-up test is scheduled for Jan. 23. Plans call for quarantine restrictions to remain in place until Jan. 30 if the horse should test positive a second time.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture and University of Pennsylvania also reported a horse transported from a Baltimore County farm to the New Bolton Center was euthanized Jan. 18 after testing positive for EHV-1.

“(On Jan. 16) a horse that had been hospitalized for an unrelated medical issue developed signs compatible with equine herpes myeloencephalopathy and tested positive for equine herpesvirus,” a release on the New Bolton Center’s website stated.

The release also stated: “The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has traced and quarantined horses suspected of having been exposed to the virus that had already left New Bolton Center prior to the diagnosis of EHM at that location. In Pennsylvania orders of special quarantine have been posted at premises that received these potentially exposed animals to control the spread of this disease.”

The Maryland Department of Agriculture has urged caretakers to watch their horses for any neurological symptoms and to monitor for fever.

OAKLAWN TO UNVEIL AMERICAN PHAROAH STATUE

As a lasting tribute to the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, who began his historic campaign at Oaklawn, the track will unveil a life-size bronze statue of American Pharoah Thursday, Jan. 11 at 11 a.m. Oaklawn opens for its 114th live racing season Jan. 12 with a special 12:30 p.m. first post.

Zayat Stables LLC.’s American Pharoah, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, began his 3-year-old season by winning the 2015 Rebel Stakes (G2) and then returned four weeks later to win the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) before capturing the Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1). He retired at the end of 2015 after also winning the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

“American Pharoah took a couple of detours on his way to the Triple Crown. But, running and winning twice at Oaklawn he found the stride, the resilience and the will to win that enabled him to power through the Derby, Preakness and Belmont,” Baffert said.

The bronze statue, by artist James Peniston, was commissioned by the late Charles Cella and is the focal point of a newly redesigned entrance to the Grandstand. The new, park-like setting will greet guests in 2018.

“We are extremely honored,” said Justin Zayat, son of owner Ahmed Zayat and Racing Manager for Zayat Stables. “Oaklawn has always been a track we love and have had great success at. Winning the Rebel and Arkansas Derby was a great foundation for American Pharoah and it was after his Arkansas Derby that we knew we had something truly special.”

“This statue is not only a lasting tribute to American Pharoah, but also to my father, Charles Cella,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. “His vision for the track was to have the very best 3-year-olds come through Hot Springs on their way to the Triple Crown races. His dream started coming true in 2004, the year Smarty Jones won the Rebel, Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and came full circle when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown. We look forward to continuing my father’s legacy by attracting the top horses for years to come.”

The unveiling will be open to the public. For more information, visit www.Oaklawn.com.

Wiggins Named Integrity Officer for Oaklawn Park

Former trainer will assume the role for 2018 season.

 

Oaklawn Jockey Club has named Hal Wiggins, one of the most respected horsemen and racing officials in the Midwest, to the newly created position of Racing Integrity Officer.

In this new position, Wiggins will serve as a liaison between Oaklawn Management, the Board of Stewards and key Arkansas Racing Commission staff, working to ensure Oaklawn’s racing program is conducted at the highest standards.

“The Oaklawn family is excited to announce Hal Wiggins as our Integrity Officer, a newly created position designed just for an individual such as he, who has the knowledge, experience and respect of his fellow horsemen,” Louis Cella, Oaklawn’s vice-president, said. “We strive to be forward thinking in all things racing and this is another example of our commitment to integrity.”

Arkansas Racing Commission Chairman Alex Lieblong agrees. “This sends an additional message that Oaklawn takes the integrity of the sport very seriously,” said Lieblong said. “I applaud them for creating this position and I applaud them for hiring Hal. I don’t think you could have asked for a better person. He’s been in racing a long time and knows when something doesn’t smell right. He also has a good way of communicating. If you can’t get along with Hal, then something else is wrong.”

For more than 30 years Wiggins was a successful horsemen, best known as the original trainer of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, who won both Oaklawn’s 2009 Martha Washington and Fantasy Stakes while under his care. Other top runners include multiple stakes winner Chorwon, Morris Code, Cielo Gold and Leo’s Gypsy Dancer.  In recent years, he has worked as a Steward as well as serving on the Board of Directors of the Texas Thoroughbred Association and as President of the Paddock Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to Thoroughbred aftercare.

“I don’t think Oaklawn could have found a better person to work with the horsemen in protecting the integrity of our sport,” Arkansas H.B.P.A. President Linda Gaston said.  “Hal’s a horseman first and we know he’ll do a wonderful job in this new position.”

“My hat is off to Oaklawn for creating this position,” Wiggins said. “The Oaklawn operation has a splendid national reputation and I’m honored to have the opportunity to be a part of it.  This is a new position, and we’ll all be learning together. But, I’m convinced we can make a difference, for the horsemen and the fan.  I’m really looking forward to it.”

Oaklawn opens for the 2018 live season Friday, Jan. 12 and the 57-day meet continues through Saturday, April 14. For more information, visit www.oaklawn.com.

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