Oaklawn Park announced Monday that its next 66-day meet will begin in December, a change to a decades-long tradition of the Hot Spring, Ark., track beginning its winter-spring meet in January.
Pending approval from the Arkansas Racing Commission, Oaklawn will race Fridays through Sundays from Dec. 3, 2021 through May 8, 2022. There will be no racing on Christmas weekend (Dec. 24-26), but there will continue to be a special Presidents’ Day card on Monday, Feb. 21.
“For many years, horsemen have wanted to race here in December to fill a gap in their racing schedule,” said Oaklawn President Louis A. Cella. “We have completed our resort expansion, including the opening of our luxury hotel, spa and event center. Therefore, the timing is right for another expansion – to our live racing season.”
“We are looking forward to the new format,” Cella added. “The additional days will provide a huge economic impact for horsemen, Arkansas Thoroughbred breeders and tourism in Central Arkansas.”
Purses for the season are projected to be $45-$50 million, the highest in America at that time of year, with all allowance races starting at $100,000.
A restructured stakes schedule will be announced later due to the calendar changes. One notable addition to the program will be races restricted to two-year-olds during December, Cella said.