$41 Million Wagered On Oaklawn’s Closing-Day Program, Doubling Previous Record

The 2020 Thoroughbred racing meet at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark., was one for the history books.

It began with festive crowds and an opening day record for pari-mutuel handle on Jan. 24 and ended on May 2 with an empty grandstand, two divisions of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, and wagering of more than $41 million that more than doubled any previous day in the track’s 116-year history under the ownership of the Cella family.

Midway through the meeting, when the coronavirus outbreak was officially called a pandemic by the World Health Organization, Oaklawn joined other racetracks around the country and announced it would continue racing without on-site attendance. Unlike many other tracks, Oaklawn was allowed to continue to race by state and local officials – under strict protocols to help prevent the spread of the virus – and made it to the finish line.

Along the way, the stakes schedule was juggled, moving most of the traditional Racing Festival of the South races from mid-April to the final week of the season, including the Arkansas Derby, which would be split in divisions for the first time since 1960.

By closing day, on what in any other year would have been Kentucky Derby day with the eyes of the racing world on Louisville, Ky., there were only three Thoroughbred tracks racing on weekends: Oaklawn, Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs. While Churchill Downs is now set for a delayed opening of its spring meet on May 16, the Kentucky Derby has been postponed until Sept. 5.

With no other major sports being conducted and live horse racing making it on to NBCSN and FS1 networks, Oaklawn’s 14-race card was manna from heaven for hungry horseplayers. Oaklawn lost out on its typically large crowds on big days, and its casino has been closed since March. But wagering on Oaklawn’s races set records, thanks to advance deposit wagering, limited competition and a captive, stay-at-home audience.

Going into the 2020 meet, Oaklawn’s all-time record single-day wagering record was the $16,221,639 bet on Rebel Stakes day in 2019, when the Kentucky Derby prep was run in divisions.

On April 18, 2020, more than $19 million was wagered on an 11-race card highlighted by the G3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap and G1 Apple Blossom Handicap.

Closing day – which also featured a large, competitive field in the G2 Oaklawn Handicap for older runners – more than doubled that record, with $40,906,451 wagered off track. Another $100,750 was bet on track by trainers and other connections of the horses who ran in the 14 races, bringing the total to $41,007,201.

That’s a record that may stand for a long time.

The post $41 Million Wagered On Oaklawn’s Closing-Day Program, Doubling Previous Record appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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