Located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Oaklawn Park Racetrack has been the center of thoroughbred racing in the American southeast for well over 100 years, and is famous for its annual springtime "Racing Festival of the South". The live racing meet at Oaklawn takes place from mid-January to mid-April, with live racing four days per week, typically Thursday through to Sunday.
Included in the Oaklawn race calendar are 31 stakes races, including the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap for Fillies and Mares with a purse of $600,000, and the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby, which is a major prep race for three-year-old horses looking for a spot in the Kentucky Derby. Oaklawn Park offers year-round simulcast wagering, and casino gaming.
Oaklawn Park Racetrack Picks
When a springtime trip to Arkansas isn't in the cards, horseplayers who want to bet the big stakes races can still make their Oaklawn Park Racetrack picks through a secure account with one of these recommended online racebooks.
Oaklawn Park Racing Tips
Somewhat unusual for a major track in the United States, Oaklawn Park does not have a turf racing course, so all races are run on the dirt track. For this reason, handicappers should be wary of any horses that are shipping into Oaklawn that have had their best success running elsewhere on the grass.
More typical of tracks located in the southern US, the hard-packed dirt of Oaklawn makes for a generally fast racing surface, so horses that have the natural speed to get to the front early should be given serious consideration in any handicapping strategy, especially if there aren't a lot of other horses in the field with lots of early speed.
As far as betting the major stakes at Oaklawn, over the past few years the Apple Blossom Handicap has twice seen a winner come back and fail to defend the title, first with On Fire Baby, who won the race in as a 12-1 longshot in 2013 and then ran second the next year, and Untappable, the winner in 2015 who could do no better than fourth in the spring of 2016. For her win, Untapable was able to sit off a fairly quick early pace and slowly edge forward on the leaders until taking over at the top of the straight and pulling away. This year, however, she tried a different tactic and went right to the front out of the gate and tried to control a slower pace, but she coudn't sustain the lead throughout and instead it was Forever Unbridled who came from off the pace to sweep three-wide in the stretch for the win. Both Untapable and Close Hatches, the 2014 winner, were heavy favorites with the betting public.
Looking at recent runnings of the Arkansas Derby from a handicapping angle, 2015 winner American Pharoah was already a star and on his way to a Triple Crown title when he won the Arkansas by an easy eight lengths, but Creator (11-1) in 2016, Danza (41-1) in 2014 were longshot winners, and along with Overanalyze (3-1) in 2012, came into the race after running third, third and fifth, respectively, in their previous three races. While Overanalyze did have a pair of Grade 2 stakes wins on his resume, his winning time of 1:51:94 represented the slowest running of the race in 52 years. And while American Pharoah did go on to win the Kentucky Derby, of course, only Danza, with a third place finish at Chuchill Downs, made any impression in the Run for the Roses, although Creator did later come back to win the 2016 Belmont Stakes.