Oaklawn Park Has Big Plans for Centennial Season

Oaklawn Park will kick off its 100th season of racing Jan. 23 with expected full fields and enticements for on-track patrons.

In 2003, the Hot Springs, Ark., racetrack lost a record-equaling six days--including its opening three-day weekend--to weather-related causes. Still, Oaklawn lured 11,938 patrons per day and total average daily handle of $5,139,887. Track officials expect to top both of those numbers in 2004.

"Barring the unforeseen weather complications, we have very high hopes for an exciting and successful centennial season," track general manager Eric Jackson said.

Following the delayed opening in 2003, more than 46,000 people attended opening weekend festivities, and wagering topped $17 million.

To commemorate the track's 100th anniversary, many concessions prices will be rolled back to 1904 levels for opening weekend. On Jan. 23-25, hot dogs, ice cream, popcorn, and soft drinks will cost 10 cents, while corned beef sandwiches go for 50 cents. First post time for all three days will be 1 p.m. (CST). Long-range weather forecasts are for partly sunny skies with high temperatures in the mid-50s.

Last year, track owner Charles Cella announced Oaklawn would raise the purses of all three of its distance races for 3-year-olds and offer a bonus of $5 million for a horse sweeps the March 20 Rebel Stakes, April 10 Arkansas Derby (gr. II), and May 1 Kentucky Derby (gr. I). The lead-in stakes locally is the Feb. 28 Southwest Stakes.

Early bird nominations, which make 3-year-olds eligible for the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby are due Feb. 14.

Oaklawn will present a cash giveaway promotion on Feb. 16. On that Monday, the track will offer a progressive cash giveaway, beginning with $1,000 after the first race and increasing to $10,000 after the 10th race.

Oaklawn will conduct a 55-day meet through April 10. For the first two weeks, racing will be held Friday through Sunday; thereafter, the schedule will be Wednesday through Sunday. The Racing Festival of the South will be held from April 3-10.