If you have never been to the race track in Hot Springs before, here is a quick primer. Oaklawn is one of the premier race tracks in the country. Best known as the home of the Racing Festival of the South and Arkansas Derby, the track has played host to some of the biggest names in the sport including champions Zenyatta, Curlin, Rachel Alexandra, and Smarty Jones.
The track is the scene of many big stories this season including legendary jockey Calvin Borel’s quest for his landmark 5,000th career win ( which has temporarily been delayed by an injury to his wrist) and Rosemary Homeister’s ( who is the second-leading female rider of all time behind only Julie Krone) introduction to Oaklawn. She will be riding at the track for the first time in her 20-year career. The announcer at the track is Frank Mirahmadi, who replaced the legendary Terry Wallace: known as the ‘Voice of Oaklawn’ during his time at the park, last year. Mirahmadi is just the fourth announcer in Oaklawn’s 108-year history. The seasoned announcer called his first race at Hollywood Park in 1992 and was also the Santa Anita Track Announcer in “Seabiscuit”.
The track celebrates Presidents Day, Feb. 18, with the Southwest Stakes. Fans attending Rebel Stakes Day, March 16, can get a glimpse at some of the country’s best 3-year-olds, but could also leave with a new boat and truck, courtesy of Bradford Marine since there will be a giveaway that day too.
New this year, Oaklawn is planning to open its Infield, complete with a Beer Garden, live music and family-friendly events every Saturday from Rebel Stakes through Arkansas Derby. The popular “Dawn at Oaklawn” program returns Saturday, Feb. 16 and will allow guests to get up close and personal with the horses and top racing personalities from 8 – 10 a.m. every Saturday through the end of the meet. Visitors can also take barn tours as part of the Saturday morning program.
The $600,000 Rebel will be the marquee event of March. April 10-13 is the Racing Festival of the South. The racing action culminates Saturday, April 13 with the 77th running of the $1 million Arkansas Derby.
Post times are 1:30 p.m. on weekdays and Sundays and 1 p.m. on Saturdays. There is also gaming onsite like craps, poker, blackjack and slot-like machines. The price for parking depends on where you park. To enter Oaklawn, there is general gate admission and also reserved admission. Reserved grandstand seats are $2.50 each on weekdays and $4.50 each on Saturday and Sunday. The minimum bet is $2. But you don’t have to bet to watch ( my favorite part is watching the jockeys and horses).
On-site racing fans at Oaklawn can also wager with their smart phones. MyOaklawn will work with all iPhones, iPads, Androids and Blackberrys. When using MyOaklawn, guests can wager with their smart phones from the paddock area, from the rail or anywhere on the track. There are no fees and no waiting in lines to wager. If you want to check out the races while in town, Oaklawn is located at 2705 Central Ave. For more information, visit Oaklawn.com or call 501-623-4411.