(Edited press release)
In spite of unsatisfactory weather conditions throughout much of the winter-spring, business at Oaklawn Park stayed strong on track through the 2007 live racing season.
Oaklawn's 56-day season was reduced to 52 days, one fewer than the 53 raced in 2006, as a result of the effects of wintry weather conditions. The entire weekend of Feb. 1-4 was lost to the cold and ice. In addition, the cold weather continued throughout the season to such a degree that, for the first time in decades, the infield area was never available for use as it has been in prior years.
For the season, attendance slipped to 618,284, much of that attributable to the throng of 57,937 who braved unseasonably chilly conditions to witness the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), compared to the record crowd of 72,464, which enjoyed near-perfect conditions for the 2006 Arkansas Derby. The daily average dropped to 11,890, the first time under the 12,000 mark since 2003.
On-track, however, wagering continued strong. A total of $65,778,477 was wagered on-track on the live races. Added to the very strong support for the track's electronic Instant Racing System, a total of $127,657,498 was wagered on pari-mutuels at Oaklawn during the season.
Significant additional available signals in simulcast could be seen as the primary reason for the diminishing off-track handle on Oaklawn races, track officials are quick to point out that the bad weather also caused reduced field size and races per day. This year $127,588,115 was handled from off-track sites, compared to the record $185,014,319 of 2006. In spite of the drop, daily average purses for the season approached $300,000, well ahead of the 2006 record of $266,036.
"Clearly 2007 was a mixed bag for us," said Oaklawn general manager Eric Jackson. "Purses and overall handle within the four walls here at Oaklawn set new records."
"We are now anticipating our future," continued Jackson. "We are in a holding pattern pending a Supreme Court decision on additional electronic games of skill. If we are allowed to proceed, our purses, which set an average daily record this year, should increase significantly. That will make Oaklawn's signal and racing much more attractive on a national basis than ever before."
Trainer Steve Asmussen, who handles Curlin and leads the country in wins through mid-April, captured his first Oaklawn leading trainer crown with 36 wins, while jockey Luis Quinonez won his first leading jockey title with 52 wins.
Drs. K. K. and Devi Jayaraman led all owners in races, having notched 17 wins from 66 starters, with trainers Steve Hobby and Chris Richard saddling their winners. Stonestreet Stables, Padua Stables, George Bolton and Midnight Cry Stables, the owners of Curlin, captured the most earnings for the meet as their chestnut colt earned $780,000 from his Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes (gr. III) victories.