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Oaklawn’s back on track 

Corned beef lovers will be Friday’s big winners.

THEY'RE OFF: If it's not too cold.
  • THEY'RE OFF: If it's not too cold.

Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs opens its 56-day horse racing meet Friday, Jan. 19, and it calls for a repeat of the opening bargains of the past several years: Fans can enjoy Oaklawn’s signature corned-beef sandwich for 50 cents and soft drinks for a dime, but the bargains are for Friday only this year.

Oaklawn’s winter opening doesn’t always coincide with perfect weather, and at press time this week, the below-freezing temperatures would have made the track surface unsafe for racing. Check the weather reports as the week progresses, but know too that Oaklawn has added to its always open indoor entertainment as well.

There are video poker machines to go along with the popular Instant Racing in a newly expanded room for the electronic “games of skill.” They are set to pay off at a certain rate, like casino gambling games. Also, there is simulcasting from other tracks across the nation whether Oaklawn is running or not. The video poker/Instant Racing room is open until midnight.

Friday’s post time is a special 1 p.m.; regular weekday and Sunday post times will be 1:30 p.m. The gates open two hours before post time. Saturday post time is 1 p.m.

Friday and Saturday programs will feature nine races both days. Friday’s feature is the $50,000 Dixieland Stakes for 3-year-olds over five-and-a-half furlongs; Saturday’s feature is the $50,000 American Beauty Stakes for 4-year-old-and-up fillies and mares over six furlongs.

More than 1,200 horses are already stabled at the track, and such top trainers as D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Holtus, Larry Jones, Tim Ritchey and John Servis have horses prepping for the Oaklawn season. Daily purses are expected to be up to $25,000 higher than 2006, to an average of $290,000-$300,000 a day, which has drawn some of the more talented thoroughbreds.

The season runs through Saturday, April 14, with the $1 million Arkansas Derby. Other key 3-year-old races are the $250,000 Southwest Stakes on Monday, Feb. 19, and the $300,000 Rebel Stakes on Saturday, March 17. Lawyer Ron swept the three races last year and went into the Kentucky Derby as a favorite, only to falter in that race and spend most of the year injured.

Oaklawn’s Racing Festival of the South, which also includes other events around town, will run April 6-14. The track will be open for live racing on Presidents Day, Monday, Feb. 19, with a progressive cash giveway starting at $1,000 for the first racing and totaling $55,000 for the day.

Daily admission is $2, as is parking on the Oaklawn grounds. For more information, seating requests or reservations for Oaklawn’s Carousel Terrace and Post Parade dining rooms, call 1-800-625-5296. Director of marketing Kim Burge-Baron says Oaklawn advanced ticket sales are significantly up from 2006 totals.

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