It may be the last major winter meet to get underway, but it won't be the least on a number of fronts. Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., is looking forward to a strong 2002 season because of higher purses, an increase in on-track business, and plenty of interest by horsemen.
Racing and breeding news and information.
It has taken almost four years, but "Instant Racing" machines have become an overnight sensation at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. In November, handle generated by the machines topped $1.2 million.
Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., saw significant decreases in attendance and on-track handle for its 52-day meet that ended April 15.
Arkansas' Oaklawn Park drew an average of 11,251 fans a day this season, down from last year's 12,428. Based on figures through the meet's April 14 close, wagering by Oaklawn patrons on races at the Hot Springs track was down 11.1%. But wagering on simulcast races was up 8%. Calvin Borel won the jockey title with 70 winners. Cole Norman won the training title by saddling 43 winners.
Those who thought Balto Star's romping win in the March 24 Spiral Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park was a fluke better think again. It appears Balto Star is indeed a star. Under Mark Guidry, Balto Star danced away from what was thought to be a competitive field of 11 3-year-olds April 14 in the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (gr. II). Finely tuned by trainer Todd Pletcher, Balto Star went fast early and late and drew off to a 4 1/2-length win in the slop. He covered the nine furlongs in a solid 1:49.04.
Serena's Tune was installed as the 9-5 favorite in the $200,000 grade II Fantasy Stakes, to be run Friday, April 13 at Oaklawn Park. Serena's Tune is the daughter of Mr. Prospector and sophomore filly champion Serena's Tune. A field of 10 fillies will contest the Fantasy over 1 1/16 miles.
Gourmet Girl tracked pacesetter Asher through the early going en route to a 4 1/2-length win in Sunday's $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park. Lu Ravi finished second in the race for the second consecutive year, this time finishing a half-length ahead of Lazy Slusan. Last year's winner and this year's 8-5 favorite Heritage of Gold finished in tenth place, with Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) winner Spain fourth.
Ogden Phipps' 4-year-old homebred Traditionally earned his first stakes win Saturday, upsetting 6-5 favorite Wooden Phone and Sir Bear in the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park. The win marks the third in four starts on the year for the regally bred Traditionally, a son of leading sire Mr. Prospector and broodmare of the year and champion Personal Ensign.
Wooden Phone, who beat Horse of the Year Tiznow in the Strub Stakes (gr. II) and finished second to the champion in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) is the 9-5 favorite in Saturday's Oaklawn Handicap.
Crafty Shaw charged along the rail in deep stretch Saturday at Oaklawn Park to win the $100,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. III) by three-quarter lengths. Arctic Boy finished second, a half-length in front of Strike It Smart. It was a neck farther back to 3-2 favorite Son of Rocket.
Son of Rocket attempts rare hat trick in Saturday's Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Heritage of Gold began her 6-year-old campaign the same way she started her 5-year-old season – defeating Lu Ravi in the Oaklawn Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III). The one-two finishers from last year's renewal of the $200,000 race duplicated their performances Sunday at Oaklawn Park. This year the exacta returned $9.60.
Don C. McNeill's homebred Mr Ross earned his second graded stakes win on the year Saturday when the Donnie Von Hemel trainee upset favored Graeme Hall in the $125,000 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park. Under a well-timed ride from jockey Donald Pettinger, Mr Ross rallied down the center of the track to catch Graeme Hall -- winner of last year's Arkansas Derby (gr. II) -- with a furlong to run in the 1 1/16 mile race.
Jockey Cindy Noll, injured in a training mishap Saturday morning behind the starting gate at Oaklawn Park, was all smiles early Sunday at St. Joseph's Regional Health Center. "I'll be back, I just don't know when," she said. "It'll be six to eight weeks before my fractures will be healed."
Legislation that would grant Oaklawn Park a reduction in its pari-mutuel excise tax is back in the Arkansas Senate's Committee on Revenue and Tax after having failed to pass the Senate Thursday. The bill has already been amended to strike out language that would authorize Oaklawn and Southland Greyhound Park to engage in account wagering.
The 2001 season hasn't been kind to Oaklawn Park, and Arkansas in general. Wild swings in weather since December have made it tough for the track maintenance crew and the state's residents, who aren't coming to the races as much as they used to. Track owner Charles Cella said he will continue to overpay purses in the hope relief is just around the corner.
Mr Ross settled in sixth-place after the opening half mile before launching a wide rally to win the $75,000 Essex Handicap (gr. III) by 1 3/4 lengths on a sloppy track at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. Remington Rock finished second, followed by Maysville Slew, Gatewood, Mister Deville, and Lights On Broadway. Dust On the Bottle dumped rider Tim Doocy after breaking awkwardly from the gate.
"Recognizing Oaklawn's significant contributions to tourism and retirement in Arkansas and an increased challenge to compete with race tracks in surrounding states," state senator Terry Smith (D-Hot Springs) filed a two-pronged pari-mutuel bill Thursday in an effort to protect Oaklawn's economic contributions to Arkansas. If passed, Senate Bill 602 would amend the state privilege tax rate on pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, while also authorizing Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis to conduct account wagering.
Trainer Jeff Jacobs, 40, was found dead at his condominium in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on Tuesday morning, apparently of natural causes. A press release from Oaklawn Park, where Jacobs had 22 horses at the time of his death, said there were no signs of foul play. According to the Associated Press, Jacobs suffered from diabetes, and a coroner said complications from the disease may have played a role.
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