Following Problem in California
In the wake of the temporary closure of Santa Anita, the Oaklawn Jockey Club announced today that it stands ready to split the Rebel Stakes on Saturday, March 16.
The announcement came just hours after Santa Anita in California announced the suspension of racing indefinitely following the deaths of 21 horses at the current meet. The San Felipe Stakes is among the races canceled this weekend.
According to the Oaklawn press office, if the Rebel is split, each division will carry a purse of $750,000, and each division will offer 63.75 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. If there is one division, the purse would remain at $1 million and there will be 85 Kentucky Derby points.
In making the announcement, Oaklawn President Louis Cella said he hopes the situation in California resolves itself quickly, precluding any reason to split the Rebel. “But if that is not the case, Oaklawn stands ready to help horsemen around the country,” said Cella.
Cella added, “From a financial standpoint, splitting the race makes no sense whatsoever. If we split it, it will be strictly on the basis of sportsmanship and what is best for the sport and best for top 3-year-olds trying to get to Kentucky.”
Cella said each division of the Rebel would need to attract a minimum of 10 runners in order to justify the split.
According to Oaklawn general manager Wayne Smith, track officials were on the phone all day Wednesday with horsemen around the country. “Plus we reached out to Arkansas Racing Chairman Alex Lieblong and to Bill Walmsley, president of the Arkansas division of the HBPA. Both gentlemen were completely supportive of our offer.”
The deadline for nominating to the Rebel Stakes was to have been midnight on March 7. But, Racing Secretary Pat Pope said the deadline is going to be pushed back to midnight on Friday, March 8.
If the Rebel is split, it will be first time in American racing history for a million dollar race to be split and run in two divisions.
Edited release with content by Dick Downey