It's official. Oaklawn Park today decided to split the Grade III Southwest Stakes in two divisions. Exact fields and post positions are pending.
Each race will have the original $250,000 purse and the graded status, allowing for twice as many horses to earn graded earnings, a determining factor in making the Kentucky Derby field.
Oaklawn management made the official decision at 11:30 a.m. ET. The two divisions will be run as races 8 and 9 on the 10-race card.
“Mr. Cella’s sporting nature and a lot of hard work by our racing office, led by racing secretary Pat Pope, has allowed us to offer two Southwest Stakes,” said David Longinotti, Assistant General Manager of Racing. “In 2004, Mr. Cella took steps to make Oaklawn’s 3-year-old program the best in the country by raising the Arkansas Derby to $1 million and offering a $5 million bonus to any horse that swept the Southwest, Rebel, Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby. We found Smarty Jones that yea, and we’re excited to see who emerges this time.”
Prior to the start of the 2012 meet, Oaklawn announced the bump of the Grade II Rebel Stakes from $300,000 to $500,000. The additional Southwest Stakes brings the total purses for Oaklawn’s graded 3-year-old races to $2 million, a $550,000 increase in graded earnings available for 3-year-olds over last year. The Rebel will be run Saturday, March 17 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) will be Saturday, April 14, closing day of the meet.
Since 2004, Oaklawn's 3-year-old program has helped produce two Kentucky Derby winners, three Preakness Stakes winners and two Belmont Stakes winners.
--Edited track release