Oaklawn Park Racetrack is a popular destination in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It sits right on a busy street and is visited by thousands of fans daily during its winter meeting. Through 2018, Oaklawn's meet ended in April, but as of 2019, the meet extends into May. It is a welcome change, as horse racing at Oaklawn Park and Oaklawn Park betting is very competitive.

The entire town of Hot Springs comes alive during the Oaklawn Park meeting. There is plenty of local nightlife, numerous hotels, and popular tourist destinations in the area. Oaklawn Park Race Track is now formally known as Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort following renovations in recent years.

Oaklawn Park Racetrack wagering

Oaklawn Park Betting

Oaklawn Park betting includes the following wagers: Win, place, show, across the board (first, second, or third), exacta, trifecta, and superfecta wagering, as well as exacta, trifecta, and superfecta boxes.

Oaklawn Park exotic wagers also include the Daily Double - which is picking a horse to finish first in two consecutive races - as well as the Pick 3 (three in a row), Pick 4 (four in a row), and Pick 5 (five in a row). To place a wager, state the name of the track, the race number, the amount of the wager and the type, as well as the horse number or numbers. They also offer a special on-track show wager called the Show Bet Bonus, where betting a horse to show will have a payout guaranteed to be higher on track than off track. 

Oaklawn Park does not offer Pick 6 wagering. Oaklawn Park minimum wagers are as follows:

  • Win/Place/Show - $2
  • Daily Double - $1
  • Exacta - $1
  • Trifecta - 50 cents
  • Superfecta - 10 cents
  • Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5 - 50 cents

The minimum betting age in Arkansas is 18. 

Oaklawn Park Online Betting

It is important to choose a racebook you trust for Oaklawn Park online betting. The best racebooks can make the most of your money and help you with bonuses and rewards.

Oaklawn Park's stakes races that are worth betting on include the Azeri Stakes (G2), Oaklawn Handicap (G2), and Rebel Stakes (G2). Grade 3 races are the Count Fleet Sprint, the Bayakoa, the Honeybee, the Razorback, the Southwest, and the Fantasy Stakes. The Fantasy Stakes is Oaklawn's big prep race for the Kentucky Oaks.

It is important to remember that Oaklawn Park is a winter track, so the racecards are often abandoned due to inclement weather. Snow, sleet, and damaging storms can sweep through the area in January and February, with rainstorms coming in March and April. When handicapping the races at Oaklawn Park, paying attention to the condition of the track and whether the runners have performed well on a wet or dry track before can be paramount.

Oaklawn Park Racetrack

Oaklawn Park Sports Betting

There is a $3 million casino built in 2008 on-site that offers Oaklawn Park sports betting, but the horse racing is the primary focus during the winter. Oaklawn Park is the largest gambling facility in Arkansas, offering live gambling tables and an Instant Racing complex. Arkansas does not allow traditional slot machines but mandates that "games of skill" are okay in a casino complex in the state.

Sports betting is the act of predicting the winner of any sporting event, not just horse racing. Oaklawn Park live odds and Oaklawn Park post positions and fields can be found on any racebook during the race meeting, which begins in mid-January.

The attendance record at Oaklawn Park is 45,500 fans.

Oaklawn Park's Best Races

Oaklawn Park's best races are the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1).

The Apple Blossom in April has long been considered the first elite race for fillies and mares on the year. Winners include Zenyatta (twice), and Azeri (three times), as well as top mares Havre de Grace, Plum Pretty, Forever Unbridled, Stellar Wind, Midnight Bisou, and Breeders' Cup winners Escena and Paseana. Bill Mott has the most wins of any trainer with four, while jockey Mike Smith has won the race six times.

The Arkansas Derby is a major stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby. It was won in 2004 by Smarty Jones, who went on to nearly win the Triple Crown, as well as American Pharoah in 2015, who did sweep the three biggest races in America. American Pharoah's feats at Oaklawn Park and beyond were so impressive that he has been immortalized with a bronze likeness outside of the Oaklawn Park front gates.

Other Arkansas Derby winners of importance include Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire, Belmont Stakes winner Creator, and Curlin, who won $10 million and numerous major races, including the Breeders' Cup Classic and Dubai World Cup. In 2020, the Arkansas Derby was split into two divisions, won by the Bob Baffert-trained runners Nadal and Charlatan.

Oaklawn Park also hosts the Oaklawn Handicap, a race rich in history. It was first to run in 1944 and since 1987 has seen the likes of Preakness Stakes winner Snow Chief, Hall of Fame runner Best Pal, the immortal Cigar, and top stallion Medaglia d'Oro run in it. More recently winners have included grade 1 heroes Tiago, Will Take Charge, Effinex, and City of Light, winner of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. The 2020 winner of the Oaklawn Handicap was By My Standards.

The Rebel Stakes (G2) has become almost as important a Kentucky Derby prep race as the Arkansas Derby. In just the last 20 years, it has been won by the likes of Smarty Jones, Curlin, Preakness Stakes winner Lookin at Lucky, two-time Breeders' Cup winner Secret Circle, Grade 1 winners Omaha Beach, Will Take Charge, Hoppertunity, and Cupid, as well as Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Nadal won the 2020 edition of the race to continue his unbeaten streak and went on to win a division of the Arkansas Derby.

Whitmore is the most popular horse to race at Oaklawn Park in a long time. He has won nine races at Oaklawn Park, including three editions of the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3). He is the first horse to accomplish that feat.

Oaklawn Park Racetrack betting

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 betting

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.