About Oaklawn Park
Oaklawn Park Race Track, one of the only places in Arkansas where gambling is legal. Even if you aren’t a gambler, Oaklawn offers a day of fun and enjoyment. Horse fans can watch the horses as they prepare, root their favorite picks over the finish line or just sit back and watch the people.
Oaklawn Park at Hot Springs features some of the finest thoroughbred horse races from late January through mid April, plus simulcast horse racing the remainder of the year. Oaklawn’s “Racing Festival of the South,” a week with one stakes race every day, leading up to the Arkansas Derby, attracts the nation’s top horses, and the Arkansas Derby winner becomes eligible for the famous Triple Crown. In addition to the Arkansas Derby, other major stakes held at the track are the Essex Handicap, the Razorback Handicap, the Hot Springs, the Carousel, and the Fantasy. The track also runs numerous overnight handicaps and minor stakes during the winter and spring meets. Remember legendary horse Smarty Jones? Few outside of Arkansas remember that this great horse story started his career racing at Oaklawn Park.
The main track at Oaklawn consists of a one mile dirt oval. The track buildings have undergone many renovations, and are considered to be extremely fan friendly. The track also has stabling facilities for a large number of horses, in state-of-the-art barns. Make sure you visit the instant racing area located at the south end of the first floor of the grandstand. The instant racing is “a pari-mutuel electronic game based entirely on horse racing” according to Oaklawn. It’s like a cartoon horse race. You place wagers like you would on a normal race, and see your horses run. The races are based on tens of thousands of historical races, so it’s just like betting on the real thing, only quicker and easier (and if it’s raining, you get to stay inside). Oaklawn simulcasts many races from tracks throughout the country, and you can bet on those too. The results for most races are announced, and you can check the race results on the screens found throughout the park.
Oaklawn Park officially opened its doors to horseracing enthusiasts on February 24, 1905, as a holiday was declared by Hot Springs’ Mayor, John Belding. A crowd of some 3,000 were in attendance to see Duelest win the first race at the new track. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Oaklawn Park was one of the most profitable and successful tracks in North America. This was mainly thanks to the Arkansas Derby, which was run for the first time in 1936, and the “Racing Festival of the South,” which was introduced in 1974. Oaklawn Park saw a decline in revenue during the second half of the century, although since Sunday racing was introduced, in 1990, the track has recovered, and is extremely profitable.
During the live season at Oaklawn, the gates open 2 hours before post time. Gate admission is $2, racing programs start at $1.75, and the minimum bet is $2. You’re not required to bet in order to watch the races. Children are allowed inside the park, but only those 18 and older may bet.
Oaklawn is located about an hour’s drive from Little Rock. The Park is located at 2705 Central Avenue, on Highway 7, just south of historic downtown Hot Springs. The price for parking depends on where you park, with the average price being in the $5 range. Remember, don’t take the races too seriously, it’s really about having fun. Winning money is just a bonus!