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Starting with Saturday's Rebel Stakes card, Oaklawn Park will implement the second increase of the season, the 18th straight year the track has bumped purses at least once during a meet.

Overnight purses will increase between $1,000-$3,000. Maiden special weights and allowance races will increase by $3,000 per race, taking the maidens to $81,000 and the allowances to as much as $85,000.

Claiming races and maiden claiming races with a claiming price of $20,000 or greater, as well as starter allowances, will receive a $2,000 increase. Other races will receive a $1,000 bump.

"We believe Arkansas through Oaklawn may have the best racing-gaming model in America," said Louis Cella, president of Oaklawn. "Racing will always come first, but thanks to our vibrant gaming business, we are able to offer the rich purses that attract the large fields and adds to the excitement our fans get to enjoy. Even with a rainy February, we still treated our guests to a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience."

Saturday's card was already the second richest of the Oaklawn season with the Grade 2 $900,000 Rebel Stakes for aspiring Derby hopefuls, the Grade 2 $350,000 Azeri Stakes for older fillies and mares and $300,000 Essex Handicap for older colts and geldings. All three races are 1 1/16 miles.

With the increase, the day's purses are projected to be more than $2 million.

"We're excited to reward our owners and trainers with the second purse increase of the season," said Wayne Smith, general manager of Oaklawn. "Our best races are still to come and we're looking forward to watching the country's best 3-year-olds prepare for the Triple Crown races."

A large field is expected for the Rebel, which is expected to include Southern California-based Solomini for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Solomini, who will be making his 3-year-old debut, finished second in the Grade 1 $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 4 at Del Mar.

Baffert has won the Rebel a record six times, all since 2010, including the 2015 edition with future Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Zayat Stables, which campaigned American Pharoah, owns Solomini.

Locally based horses pointing for the Rebel include Combatant, Sporting Chance and Zing Zang, the second, third and fifth finishers, respectively, in the Grade 3 $500,000 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 19 at Oaklawn. The Rebel field is also expected to include Higher Power, a Jan. 13 allowance/optional claiming winner.

Combatant worked a half-mile in :51.60 over a fast track Sunday morning for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

High North, based at Oaklawn late last year before moving to Fair Grounds, will run in the Rebel, trainer Brad Cox said Sunday morning. Pryor, a dominant Feb. 19 maiden graduate, is under consideration for the Rebel, trainer Ron Moquett, of Hot Springs, said.

The Rebel will offer 85 points to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. The 1 1/16-mile race is the final major local prep for the Grade 1 $1 million Arkansas Derby April 14.

Among the horses expected for the Azeri are defending champion Streamline and multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Terra Promessa, as well as Tiger Moth, Martini Glass and Sandy's Surprise, the first, third and fourth finishers, respectively, in the Grade 3 $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic on Jan. 28 at Sam Houston.

Streamline worked 5 furlongs in 1:02 Tuesday morning for trainer Brian Williamson.

Trainer Wayne Catalano said multiple stakes winner Farrell is a candidate for Saturday's Azeri. Farrell worked a half-mile in :49 Sunday morning.

The Azeri is the final major local prep for the Grade 1 $700,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 13.

The Asmussen-trained Untrapped worked a half-mile in :50 Sunday morning for his scheduled start in the Essex, the final major local prep for the Grade 2 $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 14.

Cox said either Leofric or Dazzling Gem, both owned by Arkansas automobile dealer Steve Landers, will run in the Essex. Leofric finished second in the Grade 3 $500,000 Razorback Handicap on Feb. 19. Dazzling Gem was an allowance winner earlier on the card. Cox said only one of the two horses will run in the Essex.

Dazzling Gem worked a half-mile in :48.80 Sunday morning, with Leofric going in :49.60.

Sports on 03/12/2018

Print Headline: Rebel card expected to exceed $2M after second purse increase

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