Arkansas Derby Day Sets Pace with Record Single-Day Handle of More than $16 Million
More than 64,000 fans turned up at Oaklawn Park April 14 for a big day of racing and the $1 million Arkansas Derby. When Magnum Moon won his fourth straight race as a 3-year-old and wired the field to win by 4 lengths, many bettors had to be happy, even if the payout was just $3.60 to win on the 4-5 favorite.
The total handle of $16,159,771 wagered on the 12-race card broke the previous single-day record of $15,133,537 set in 2000 on Arkansas Derby Day.
A month earlier, Magnum Moon won the $900,000 Rebel Stakes, and the total handle that day of $10,771,984 was the highest non-Arkansas Derby Day in the 114-year history of the track.
During the 2018 live meet, Oaklawn was an 11% increase in total handle. Oaklawn raced 55 of 57 days after two weather cancellations in January for total handle of $209,695,403. The average total daily handle of $3,812,644 was up 15% over 2017. Export handle also saw the big gains during the 2018 season, growing by 15% to $175,125,149 despite racing two fewer days than 2017.
“From start to finish, the quality of our racing had never been better,” general manager Wayne Smith said. “We are extremely excited to have ended the meet with a double-digit increase in handle,” Smith said. “It’s a testament to the great product we were able to put on the track this season.”
The horsemen once again benefited from the highest purse structure of any winter-spring track in the country. Maiden Special Weights purses started at $75,000 and grew to $81,000 at the end of the season after two purse increases, while purses for open Allowances began at $76,000 and grew to as high as $83,000. The lucrative purses are demonstrated in the fact that 16 jockeys rode horses that earned more than $500,000 and 10 trainers stabled full time at Oaklawn earned more than $500,000. In addition, the claim box was extremely active during the season with 452 claims made for $7,241,500, a 16.3% increase over 2017.
Trainer Steve Asmussen collected his ninth leading trainer title with 44 victories and $2,977,921 in purses, while his main jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. earned his sixth consecutive leading rider title with 69 wins and a single-season record of $4,240,304 in purses.
Oaklawn will start a new tradition in 2019 when it opens Friday, Jan. 25 and continues the season through Saturday, May 4, marking the first time in its storied 115-year history that it has raced after Arkansas Derby Day. The 2019 Arkansas Derby will be run Saturday, April 13.
Oaklawn Park is setting the pace for other tracks to follow with full and competitive fields providing plenty of betting opportunities and more fun at the race track.