Racing returns Friday to Oaklawn for a 66-day meet, with a nine-race slate that includes the $150,000 Advent Stakes. The meet marks the first time that Oaklawn has added December dates to its schedule.
Races will go Fridays through Sundays most weeks, with a few exceptions, with breaks for Christmas and Easter and a Monday card for President’s Day.
“We are looking forward to the new format,” Oaklawn president Louis Cella said in a news release. “The additional days will provide a huge economic impact for horsemen, Arkansas Thoroughbred breeders and tourism in central Arkansas.”
The Oaklawn meet is anchored by four qualifying points races for the 2022 Kentucky Derby. The Smarty Jones on Jan. 1 and the Southwest (G3) on Jan. 29 offer 10-4-2-1 designations to the top four finishers, while the Rebel (G2) on Feb. 26 will be a 50-20-10-5 points race and the Arkansas Derby (G1) will pay 100-40-20-10 points.
Last meet’s leading trainer at Oaklawn, Steve Asmussen, is back for 2021-22. North America’s all-time leading trainer by wins had 60 last meet at the Hot Springs, Ark., track.
Asmussen returns with five entries on opening day and three on Saturday. His opening weekend contingent includes Cairama running in the Advent and Willful Woman in the $150,000 Mistletoe.
The Hall of Fame trainer’s closest competition for the winter and spring 2021 meet was Robertino Diodoro, who won 44 races. Diodoro will run three horses on Friday and five on Saturday.
Third in the 2021 standings at Oaklawn was Brad Cox, who finished the meet with 29 victories. He also will be back for the 2021-22 meet, with four entries on Friday and four on Saturday, including Amendment Nineteen and Marion Francis in the Mistletoe.
Ricardo Santana Jr. led the jockeys in the last Oaklawn meet with 68 wins. He returns with seven mounts on Friday, including Cairama for Asmussen in the Advent.
David Cabrera finished second in the early 2021 meet’s jockey standings with 62 wins. He is set to return Friday with eight mounts and Saturday with 10, including Oliviaofthedesert for trainer Kenny McPeek in the Mistletoe.
Francisco Arrieita, who finished third in Oaklawn’s last meet with 50 wins, will be in the irons for eight races Friday and seven on Saturday. Arrieta will ride Kavod in the Advent and Marion Francis in the Mistletoe.
The 2021-22 Oaklawn meet is scheduled to wrap up on May 8.