Oaklawn Park


Racing Dates: January – April
Max Per Race Payout: US$ 30,000
Main track (dirt): 1 mile, oval
Length of stretch from last turn to finish line: 1,155 ft
Width of stretch: 70 ft
Width of turns: 80 ft
Composition: 2″ sandy loam cushion, 3″ sandy loam cushion compacted, 10″ sand / silt, 30″ clay and natural soil

We’re familiar with the role of casino and hotel complexes in American thoroughbred racing. However the big draw of the attraction when Oaklawn Park was first opened in 1904-05 were the Hot Springs in Arkansas.

This resort mecca owes its success to the natural hot springs that give the city its name. Major League Baseball teams would hold their training camps here to take advantage of Bathhouse Row; Babe Ruth was a familiar face around Oaklawn Park at the time. Spa-loving tourists would help keep the racetrack’s revenues flowing during the Great Depression after pari-mutuel betting was re-introduced to Arkansas in 1929.

Oaklawn Park is now best known as the site of the Grade 1, $1-million Arkansas Derby (nine furlongs, 3-year-olds), run on the one-mile dirt oval that serves as the facility’s lone track. First run in 1936, the Arkansas Derby is a major stop for thoroughbreds on the Triple Crown trail. Sunny’s Halo (1983) and Smarty Jones (2004) would go on to win the Kentucky Derby with Smarty Jones also winning the Preakness that year.

Racing at Oaklawn Park takes place every year from January through April. In addition to the Arkansas Derby, there are 10 graded stakes and over 20 ungraded stakes on the calendar. The most important of those is the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (8.5 furlongs, 4-year- olds and up) for fillies and mares. Former American Horse of the Year Zenyatta was a two-time winner of the Apple Blossom in 2008 and 2010.