Oaklawn, Hot Springs in bloom 

Racing Festival of the South draws top horses, SpringFest brings in concert-goers.

APPLE BLOSSOM TIME: Saturday's race.
  • APPLE BLOSSOM TIME: Saturday's race.

Oaklawn Park’s Racing Festival of the South, a week of the biggest horse races in the region, begins with Friday’s Fantasy Stakes and Saturday’s “Million Dollar Day,” featuring the Apple Blossom Handicap and Oaklawn Handicap, both with purses of $500,000. The festival culminates with the April 14 running of the $1 million Arkansas Derby, plus other big-purse races drawing leading thoroughbreds throughout next week.


In conjunction with Oaklawn’s big week, Hot Springs will celebrate with SpringFest, which includes a concert on Wednesday, April 11, with K.C. and the Sunshine Band and the Village People at Summit Arena.


Round Pond, the winner of the 2006 Breeder’s Cup Distaff Stakes and winner in five of six starts at Oaklawn, is the top choice among the 4-year-old-and-upwards fillies and mares running Saturday in the Apple Blossom, with 15 horses nominated to run. Round Pond has won almost $2 million in her career.


The Apple Blossom is a mile-and-one-sixteenth and is considered the most significant spring race for fillies and mares. Lemons Forever and Ermine, who finished one-two in last year’s Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in Louisville, are also entered, as is India, the 2007 Azeri Breeders’ Cup winner.


Over the course of its lengthy history, the Apple Blossom Handicap has produced such champions as Azeri, Gourmet Girl, Banshee Breeze and Escena.


Friday’s Fantasy Stakes will feature leading 3-year-old fillies and mares. Round Pond won the 2005 Fantasy. This year’s favorite is Rags to Riches, who has won at Santa Anita in California this year.


KC and the Sunshine Band, with its blend of R&B and funk, Caribbean-Latin beats and dance music, was the hottest group during the disco era and, behind leader Harry Wayne (KC) Casey, continues to tour more than 30 years after breaking on the scene. KC topped the charts with “Get Down Tonight,” “That’s the Way (I Like It),” “Shake Your Booty,” “Keep It Coming, Love” and more. The Village People have retained several original members of the group that hit big with such songs as “Y.M.C.A.” and “Macho Man.”


Tickets are $25 and $20 and available through Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.com, 501-321-1919) or the Summit Arena box office. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.


SpringFest will include music shows and events throughout downtown Hot Springs over the next week. On Friday, April 13, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra will play a “Derby Dance” at Horner Hall in the Convention Center starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call 501-321-2027.

Also, Garvan Woodland Gardens, off the U.S. 270 bypass, is holding its Tulip Extravaganza through April 18. The Gardens has more than 93,000 tulips in bloom, along with thousands of redbud trees and azaleas. Call 501-262-9300 for tour information.






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