A Sure Bet for a Good Time at Oaklawn Racing & Gaming
If you’re looking for excitement, make a stop at Oaklawn Racing & Gaming.
A premier Thoroughbred racetrack since 1904, Oaklawn’s live racing season runs from January into May. More than a million visitors every year flock to this Spa City icon, which was recently named one of the top 10 Thoroughbred racetracks on the continent by Horseplayers Association of North America. And with a total purse of just over $30 million allotted for the 2019 season, Oaklawn is increasingly attractive to world-class competitors — especially for the Arkansas Derby, a stepping stone to the Triple Crown.
Aside from the track, Oaklawn boasts live blackjack and poker (as well as electronic card game tables), roulette, craps, a high-limit area and hundreds of slot machines.
The future of Oaklawn is looking bright with the announcement of plans for a huge expansion project costing in excess of $100 million — making it one of the largest hospitality investments in the history of Arkansas. The project will include a seven-story hotel, multi-purpose event center, a larger gaming area and additional on-site parking.
The yet-to-be-named hotel will have 200 rooms, views of the racetrack on one side and the lakes on the other, an outdoor swimming pool, a luxury spa, fitness center and restaurant. Next to the hotel will be a 14,000 square-foot multi-purpose events center that will be perfect for concerts, meetings, banquets and weddings.
The project also includes the addition of approximately 28,000 square feet of gaming space and significantly expanded parking. Thanks to the casino measure passed in 2018, Oaklawn can bring in slot machines and table games, making it a full-scale casino.
RIGHT ON TRACK
Construction on the project will begin in May, immediately following completion of the racing season. The target completion date for the gaming expansion is January 2020. Oaklawn aims to have the hotel and event center completed in late 2020.
After a particularly rainy season in 2018, Oaklawn announced it will shift its racing season to later in the calendar and for the first time, racing will “Stay Until May.” Typically, the season ended after the Arkansas Derby on the second Saturday of April, but now Oaklawn will be open until the beginning of May. It’s the biggest change in the traditional Oaklawn racing schedule since World War II.
BY THE NUMBERS
511,750 - The number of racetrack visitors at Oaklawn in 2018 (not including visitors on free admission days)
$1 million - Oaklawn’s biggest purse, awarded to the winner of the Arkansas Derby
2 - The number of days Oaklawn is closed each year (on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day).
115 - Years of racing at Oaklawn
$125,103.43 - The largest jackpot hit on a 25¢ Wheel of Fortune machine in February 2013
57 - Days of racing each year
1,563 - Horse stalls in Oaklawn’s barns
PLAN YOUR VISIT
- Live racing runs from late January to early May
- Gates open at 11 a.m. The casino is open from 10 a.m.-3 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday
- Closed Easter and Christmas Day
A BRIEF LESSON IN RACETRACK LINGO
CHALK OR CHALK HORSE: The favorite or most heavily played horse in a race.
POST POSITION: A horse’s position in the starting gate from the inner rail outward which is decided by a drawing.
OVERLAY: A horse whose odds are higher than its actual chance of winning, as determined by the player. Overlays are good, underlays are bad.
MORNING LINE ODDS: The odds set by the track prior to the opening of the pools.
MAIDEN: A horse that has never won a race; or a race for horses that have never won a race.
IN THE MONEY: To finish in the top four; this generally entitles the owner to a share of the purse. In betting terms “in the money” means to finish in the top three.
EXACTA: A bet in which the player attempts to pick the 1st and 2nd place horse on one ticket.
GOING: The condition of the racing surface. Dirt courses are generally rated Fast, Good, Muddy, or Sloppy. Turf courses are generally rated Firm, Good, Yielding, Soft, or Heavy.
The crown jewel of the Oaklawn season has to be the Arkansas Derby.
The derby was first held in 1936 and awarded a $5,000 purse to the winning horse, Holl Image. Today, the Arkansas Derby boasts the highest purse of Oaklawn’s races ($1 million). The derby has been held every year since 1936, with the exception of 1945, when Oaklawn was forced to cancel its entire racing meet because of World War II.
Tens of thousands of people from all over the state and beyond flock to Hot Springs for the derby, dressed to the nines in elaborate hats and colorful pastels. This year, you can catch the fun on April 13.
Also see The Life of a Jockey at Oaklawn Park