Oaklawn Park opens their winter/spring meet Friday, Jan. 18.

Oaklawn Park opens their winter/spring meet Friday, Jan. 18.

Oaklawn Park Ready for 2008 Meet

The opening weekend cards at Oaklawn include stakes for 3-year-olds.

Live racing in the heart of Hot Springs, Ark., kicks off Jan. 18 as the 56-day Thoroughbred meet gets under way at Oaklawn Park. The historic facility, which has a traditional dirt surface, first hosted racing in 1905.

More than 1,000 horses are stabled at Oaklawn, and big fields are expected when racing begins with a four-day weekend through the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Jan. 21. This year’s 3-year-old crop will highlight opening day in the $50,000 Dixieland Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs, and those ready to go one mile will have the opportunity to do so in the Jan. 21 inaugural running of the $50,000 Smarty Jones  Stakes.

Jan. 21 is also Smarty Jones Bobble Horse giveaway day at Oaklawn.

Oaklawn's three major 3-year-old stakes--the one-mile Southwest Stakes (gr. III), the 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes (gr. III),  and the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby (gr. II)--will take place later in the season.

The Feb. 18 Southwest, granted grade III status this year, was won by Teuflesberg in 2007. The March 15 Rebel marked the first stakes victory for eventual Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Curlin in 2007. The $1-million Arkansas Derby, to be run April 12 this year, also was won by Curlin by a record 10 1/2 lengths.

The first stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Oaklawn will be the $50,000 Dixie Belle, a six-furlong feature Jan. 26. For that crop the next important date will be Feb. 17, when the one-mile $50,000 Martha Washington Stakes is scheduled.

Graded stakes competition for 3-year-old fillies will start with the $100,000 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) at a 1 1/16-miles March 16, and conclude with the $250,000 Fantasy Stakes (gr. II), also 1 1/16-miles, to be held April 6 as part of the Racing Festival of the South.

For older horses, the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. I) at 1 1/8 miles and the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at 1 1/16 miles will both be held April 5. Last year’s editions of the races were won by Lawyer Ronand Ermine, respectively.

Racing at Oaklawn runs Jan. 18-April 12. Live racing occurs Thursday through Sunday until March 19, when Wednesday racing is added to the schedule. Information on the upcoming meet and special holiday racing dates may be found on the Oaklawn Park Web site.