About Oaklawn Park Racetrack
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.