Oaklawn Ready for Jan. 24 Opening Day

Edited from track notes

The Oaklawn Jockey Club will open for its 99th year of racing on Friday, Jan. 24. For the first two weeks of the 55-day live season, racing will be conducted on weekends only, Friday-Sunday. The regular five-days-per-week schedule, Wednesday-Sunday, will begin on February 5. First post times for the three days of the opening weekend, January 24-26, will be 1:00 p.m.

Two stakes races highlight the opening weekend of racing, the Jan. 24 Dixie Belle, a $50,000 race for three-year-old fillies at six furlongs, and the Jan. 25 Mountain Valley Stakes, a $50,000 race for three-year-olds at six furlongs.

In 2002 a total of 46,293 fans attended the races on the opening weekend of action, and wagering topped $15 million. This year the first Sunday of the meet is Super Bowl Sunday, which is normally a slow day, so track officials are guarded on whether to expect the 2002 numbers to be topped. On the other hand, there is a big cash giveaway of up to $27,000 for fans in attendance on Jan. 26, so the promotion may be the impetus to make the opening weekend a big success.

Horse-wise the talent on the Oaklawn backstetch appears solid this year. In the early going Charles Cella's Crafty Shaw might very well be the finest runner on the grounds. Crafty Shaw comes to Oaklawn off a strong fall campaign which finished with a narrow loss to Lido Palace in the Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in late November. Crafty Shaw is expected to appear in defense of his Essex Handicap crown on Saturday, Feb. 22.

Jockey Colony Features Plenty of Stars
The return of former Oaklawn champion jockeys Jon Court, Tim Doocy, and James Lopez virtually guarantees that there will be a great challenge for riding honors during the 2003 live racing season at Oaklawn.

Lopez captured his first Oaklawn title last season, garnering 59 wins, the lowest total of wins for an Oaklawn champion since Sam Maple and Larry Snyder dead-heated for the title in 1978 with 50 each. Lopez topped a contentious bunch in 2002 and should find the challenge just as tough this time around.

Court, who registered an Oaklawn championship in 2000, has been away from Hot Springs for the past two seasons, but opted to return to Oaklawn this season and his return is being widely heralded by press, media and the public. An outgoing, popular rider, Court has been a darling of the public throughout his career and must be accorded a good chance to get back to the top of the standings.

Doocy won the Oaklawn title in back-to-back years, 1998-1999, and has finished near the top each season since. The veteran has an experience edge over some of his younger competition and he remains a real favorite with some of the leading stables racing this year at Oaklawn.

Two other jockeys likely to make a major mark this year are Terry Thompson and Anthony Lovato. Thompson appeared on his way to the title last season when injury sidelined him. Lovato, meanwhile, was the runner-up to Lopez last season, logging 52 wins, and comes to Oaklawn after a foray into southern California during the fall.

Other jockeys expected to appear this season include Ronald Ardoin, Alex Birzer, Glen Murphy, Don Pettinger, Luis Quinonez, Rodney Trader, Jamie Theriot and others.

Simulcasting Continues Through the Live Meet
Simulcasting of races from other venues will continue to be a major part of the Oaklawn experience, even during the live meet.

Simlucasts only will run through Monday, January 20. Then, when the live races begin on Jan. 24, many of those tracks which have been popular in previous years, including Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita and others, will still be available to players on a regular basis.

Starting on Jan. 31, evening simulcasts will be available on Fridays and Saturdays until April.

Exciting Promotions Highlight The 2003 Racing Calendar
Get ready for some very special days during the 2003 live season at Oaklawn. On opening day, Friday, Jan. 24, receive a FREE 12-pack cooler with paid admission, while supplies last, plus valuable Spa Bucks coupons from friendly Hot Springs merchants, a FREE admission slip for Sunday, Jan. 26, and an entry form into the big cash drawing, scheduled for that day.

On Jan. 26, the cash drawing begins with $1,000 cash after the first race. There will be another drawing after each race with the amount of the cast award increasing by $500 from the previous drawing, culminating with an award of $5,000 after the ninth race.

For those planning on attending the races on Monday, Feb.17, President's Day activities will be highlighted by the awarding of a Lincoln vehicle to one lucky fan in attendance. It's George Washington's birthday, so let Washington put you in a Lincoln on Monday, Feb. 17.

By March 22 folks around Arkansas are already thinking about summertime and lots of outdoor activities. Those at Oaklawn will be especially keyed, since one lucky customer in attendance will be receiving a free pickup truck and a boat, courtesy of Bradford Marine.

Horses and Hogs, now there's a combination. At Oaklawn, on Sunday, April 6, that means the renewal of the great Harley Davidson giveaway, as Oaklawn celebrates the arrival of spring and the beginning of the Racing Festival of the South by giving away special edition his and hers Harley Davidson motorcycles. This year will be the 100th anniversary of the Harley Davidson and everyone will be talking about them. You may own one thanks to the Horses and Hogs celebration on April 6.

The Racing Festival of the South, the most prestigious week of racing in North America, will take place this year from April 5-April 12. Each day of the Festival features a major stakes event with some of the finest horses, trainers, owners and jockeys participating.

Make your plans now. Contact the Reserved Seat Office by calling Oaklawn at 501-623-4411, extension 130, or 1-800-OAKLAWN, extension 130.