Apple Blossom Handicap
Apple Blossom Handicap
Each year in Hot Springs, Arkansas, a grand event takes place. Every April at the Oaklawn Park, home of the Racing Festival of the South, thousands of people gather to see this American Thoroughbred horse race. Handicap racing, one of the forms of thoroughbred racing, is when each horse is assigned a different amount of weight to carry based on their ability. In addition to the weight each horse is carrying, they also have other factors that influence the outcome. For example, the talent of the horse trainer or jockey plays a vital role in how well the horse will do. Also, the gender of the horse and his/her personal traits has its own impact. Other factors in the mix are closeness to the inside of the barrier, and the track itself, all these being key components to horse racing. Graded stakes race, a term that describes races that derive their name from the stake, or entrance fee the owners pay. The track also adds to the stake which is paid in prize money to the race’s winners.
Of the 65 thoroughbred race tracks, Oaklawn Park was ranked #9 in 2009. The race began in 1958, was repeated in 1963, and then run every year after that. Until 1973, it was a handicap race. It then became a Graded stakes race. The type of horses in the race are fillies and mares, four years or older. The setting is a left handed dirt track usually 8.5 furlongs or 1 1/16 miles long. Over the years this distance has changed. In 1958, and 1980-2009 it was 8.5 furlongs. In the year 1963 and 1968-1974, it was only 6 furlongs. Between 1975-1979 it was 8.32, and the last one held in 2010, was 9 furlongs.
The owner of Oaklawn Park is Charles J. Cella. He owns the Oaklawn Jockey Club Inc. and operates the track, the business being in his family for three generations. In 2010 Cella announced a new possible change. Winner of the race takes a purse of $ 500,000, and after negotiating with the two leading females in the U.S. in 2009, he offered a purse increase to $ 5 million if the horses, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta would start in the 2010 race. If both were willing, the race would have been 9 furlongs long. If one was not, the purse would remain $ 500,000 and revert to the original distance of 8.5 furlongs long. Both agreed to Cella’s offer as long as the health of their horses remained well. However, on March 14, 2010, after a race ran by Rachel Alexandra, it was announced she was not in top form to compete in the Apple Blossom Handicap 2010.
The winner of the race in 2010 was Zenyatta, whose jockey, Mike Smith, has also earned ‘Most wins by Jockey’ for this race. He has tallied up six wins in years 1994, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2010. The last two wins were with the horse Zenyatta. One of the horses he rode also took ‘most wins’ – Azeri, winning in years 2002, 2003 and 2004
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