The first of 100,000 trading cards of champions Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta were handed out March 2 as free souvenirs of the $5 million Apple Blossom Invitational (gr. I) at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming April 9.
The cards — 50,000 of each horse — were printed by the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau to help maximize the impact for Oaklawn, the city and Arkansas of the event, said Steve Arrison, CEO of the CVB.
The first public distribution of the cards was at the downtown Visitor Center in Hill Wheatley Plaza on Central Avenue at the southern end of Bathhouse Row. One copy of each card was given free to all who attended, Arrison said.
“People started lining up at 7 a.m. to receive the cards,” he said in a release. “By 8 a.m. there were 250 people in line, some of whom had brought blankets and lawn chairs. It was really cold too, so these people obviously wanted to make sure they got copies of this souvenir.
“By 9 a.m., the line stretched all the way around the Visitor Center and more people were coming all the time.”
Oaklawn also will distribute free copies of the cards March 6. The cards will be given away as long as supplies last, Arrison said.
Original plans were to print 25,000 of each card, but high demand for the cards in advance of the March 2 free distribution prompted Arrison to obtain 25,000 more of each card from the printer. As of March 2, mailed-in requests for the cards had arrived from 23 states, Arrison said. In addition, Churchill Downs in Louisville and Lone Star Park in Texas had contacted Arrison asking for cards to distribute free to their patrons in advance of the Apple Blossom.
“We found we could double the order for only $975 in addition to the original $2,395 printing cost,” he said, “so we got more of each card.”
Those who want one of each card mailed to them may send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Apple Blossom Cards, PO Box 6000, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, 71902, Arrison said. Requests will be answered as long as supplies last.
“We’ve done a series of trading cards in the past,” Arrison said in a statement. “Most of those have featured President Bill Clinton and his connection to his hometown of Hot Springs. We did a card featuring the racehorse Smarty Jones, which proved tremendously popular with the public.
“The cards carry the message that Hot Springs has a link to the subject of the cards, and they’ve gone all over the globe publicizing Hot Springs.
“The Apple Blossom Invitational has already attracted unprecedented attention around the globe for Oaklawn, Hot Springs and the state of Arkansas,” Arrison added. “These Apple Blossom trading cards will give people a free souvenir of a great time at a great racetrack in a great city in a great state.”
Oaklawn president Charles J. Cella announced earlier this month that Oaklawn is increasing the purse of the Apple Blossom to $5 million, the largest purse for a filly and mare race in the history of North American Thoroughbred racing.
Cella said the owners of both Rachel Alexandra (Jess Jackson) and Zenyatta (Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss) had agreed to bring their horses to Oaklawn for the April 9 race, which will also feature eight other invited fillies and mares.