by Tyler Hale
Tourists and racing enthusiasts will be flooding into Hot Springs this week for the start of racing season. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort is hosting its opening tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 24), with the first race of the season posting at 12:30 p.m.
This year, Oaklawn is raising the stakes for its horse racing. From January through May, Oaklawn will hold its 57-day racing season, which features a total of 33 stakes races.
Races will offer a total of $35 million in total purses with $10.7 million in stakes races. The total marks a record in purses for Oaklawn, which had $28.7 million in purses in 2019. Four of the stakes will have $1 million purses. These include the Rebel Stakes, the Arkansas Derby, the Oaklawn Handicap and the Apple Blossom Handicap.
Other major stakes include the $750,000 Southwest Stakes; $600,000 Fantasy Stakes; the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap; the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes; the $300,000 Oaklawn Invitation, which concludes the racing season; the $250,000 Oaklawn Mile; and more.
The racing highlight for Opening Day will be the Smarty Jones Stakes, which boasts a purse of $150,000. On Saturday, Jan. 25, Oaklawn is holding two stakes races – the Fifth Season Stakes and the Pippin Stakes, which are both $100,000 races. However, the Fifth Season Stakes has been split into two $100,000 races.
Last season, multiple trainers, owners and jockeys posted winnings of more than $1 million. The highest earner for the season was Steven Asmussen in his capacity as a trainer. Asmussen won $5,644,609 in purses as a trainer as well as $362,018 as an owner.
M & M Racing (Mike Sisk) posted the highest earnings for an owner with $1,775,651 in total purses. This was the only million earnings for an owner. The closest earnings was for Alex and JoAnn Lieblong, who had $899,774 in earnings.
However, there were multiple trainers who notched $1 million+ in earnings. These trainers include Robertino Diodoro, Brad H. Cox and Ron Moquett. Diodoro had $1,758,322 in earnings, Cox had $1,557,981 in earnings and Moquett had $1,264,113.
Eight jockeys received more than $1 million in purses. The highest earning jockey in terms of purses was Ricardo Santana Jr., who notched $4,317,757. Two jockeys, David Cohen and Ramon A. Vazquez, won more than $2 million in purses.
See the full list of 2019 leading earners here.
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