Oaklawn Park History
The history of Oaklawn Park is long, as it opened in February 1905. It was open and closed intermittently due to various political issues between 1907 and 1929 when pari-mutuel wagering was finally allowed in Arkansas. It has since grown to one of the most important tracks in the United States, with handle up to $41 million wagered in a day.
After a few years of decline, Smarty Jones put the meet back on the map in 2004. Oaklawn Park offered a $5 million bonus to a horse that could sweep the Rebel Stakes, the Arkansas Derby, and the Kentucky Derby. Smarty Jones did all three, added the Preakness Stakes, and nearly won the Triple Crown before finishing second in the Belmont Stakes. Since then, the Arkansas Derby has become the leading Kentucky Derby prep that trainers from around the country point to.
Oaklawn Park has a one-mile dirt track with two finish lines depending on the length of the race.
In 2010, Oaklawn Park president Charles Cella offered $5 million for a virtual match race in the Apple Blossom between the great mares Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra did not start, so Zenyatta took the race effortlessly and collected the winner’s share of a $500,000 purse instead.
Oaklawn Park Expert Picks
The expert picks given out at Oaklawn Park are by analyst Nancy Holthus, a third-generation horse person who has been in the horse business for over two decades. She has been on air at Oaklawn Park since 2013.
The best bets at Oaklawn Park are to wager on the right trainers and jockeys. Ricardo Santana, Jr led all riders in 2020 by the amount of money earned, over $3.6 million. Martin Garcia, Joseph Talamo, and David Cohen also do well at the meet, with ship in riders such as Victor Espinoza and Irad Ortiz, Jr. performing well due to the caliber of horses they are on.
As for trainers, Steve Asmussen won nearly $2 million more than anyone else in 2020, with Brad Cox finishing second just ahead of Robertino Diodoro. Bob Baffert, who has a very high percentage at Oaklawn Park, finished fourth. In 2019, Asmussed earned $4 million more than Diodoro.