Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs is making a monumental change to its live racing schedule. Oaklawn is not only Arkansas’s only Thoroughbred racing venue, it holds title as one of the top tracks in the nation. The scheduling move is a first for the track since World War II and will be put into effect starting with the 2019 live racing season. A main goal, which will extend the season by three weeks, is to take advantage of favorable spring weather conditions.
“This is a sea-change in our scheduling,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said in a press release. “This is an idea that has been discussed internally for a number of years and now the time seems right to make the change. The quality of our program is calling on us to present racing in the most favorable weather conditions. There is nowhere in America more beautiful for great racing than Arkansas in the spring.”
In 2019, Oaklawn will run from January 25 through May 4, three weeks after the $1 million Arkansas Derby, which has traditionally marked the end of the racing season.
“We are essentially trading January race days, when there is always the chance of cancellation due to weather, for April race dates, when Arkansas weather is at its finest,” said Arkansas Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Board member Bill Walmsley via the release. “The later closing should be an additional enticement to the top racing stables to come to Arkansas. And, continuing to race following the Arkansas Derby will keep the excitement for racing going another three weeks.”
Oaklawn will maintain its regular Thursday throughSunday schedule. “Arkansas Derby Day will still be the pinnacle of the season,” Cella said in the release.” But now, live racing at Oaklawn will also be part of the Kentucky Derby experience three weeks later, when our racing fans will be able to cheer on the horses representing them in Louisville.”
Oaklawn is located at 2705 Central Avenue and is open year-round for simulcasting and electronic gaming operations.