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Oaklawn Park Opens Friday; Canterbury Regulars Galore

Racing at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas begins this Friday afternoon. The winter/spring meet with huge purses and many of the best trainers from across the country should again provide not only exciting action but large betting pools. Oaklawn has extended its meet from the traditional mid-April end date up to May 4, Kentucky Derby Day, for a total of 57 days.

Track officials announced total purses of nearly $32 million including “Maiden Special Weight races of $77,000 escalating up to $87,000 on three premier race days and open allowance races beginning at $78,000 and going up to as high as $88,000 on premier race days. ” Purses of that size do not exist anywhere else in the country during that time frame.

Three-year-olds prepping for the Kentucky Derby get their first chance to earn qualifying points on opening day with the $150,000 Smarty Jones. A field of nine has been entered for the one-mile test. From there is it on to Monday, Feb. 18 and the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3);  followed by the  $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) in March and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in April.

Several trainers that you will find at Canterbury Park are again at Oaklawn including Robertino Diodoro, Joe Sharp, Bruce Riecken, Karl Broberg, and Nevada Litfin.  And of course Canterbury Park Hall of Famer Mac Robertson has for several seasons raced successfully in Hot Springs. He has entered Canterbury’s 2017 Horse of the Year Amy’s Challenge, owned by Joe Novogratz, in Saturday’s $100,000 American Beauty at six furlongs. The 4-year-old filly has been tearing up the track in morning workouts.  Unseen since October when she finished sixth at Keeneland, Amy’s Challenge will be ridden by Shakopee’s own Alex Canchari.

Also on the opening day card are Jareth Loveberry and Orlando Mojica.

Oaklawn has an excellent website with informative barn notes, stories, stats, schedules and everything else you might need.

Racing begins Friday with a 1:30 p.m. first post.

Photos by Coady Photography