HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – The ponies are back at Oaklawn Park today.
To mark the occasion, we’ve compiled these tidbits of trivia about the Hot Springs thoroughbred racetrack, with help from its website:
The track opened in 1904 and operated until 1907 before anti-gambling reform swept the state and closed the track until 1916. Oaklawn then continued to race until 1919, when the state again deemed racing illegal and forced the track to close.
Celebrated Chicago architect Zachary Taylor Davis was hired to design Oaklawn’s glass-enclosed, heated grandstand – among the first of its kind in the country – in 1904. A decade later, he designed Wrigley Field, the longtime home of the Chicago Cubs.
A little more than a decade after reopening, Oaklawn hosted three of the most famous horses in racing history: Pan Zareta, Old Rosebud and Exterminator – all members of the National Racing and Museum Hall of Fame.
Oaklawn ran the Arkansas Derby for the first time in 1936. Holl Image won the 1 1/8-mile race by three lengths. Holl Image finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby. The purse for the 1936 Arkansas Derby was $5,000, which equates to approximately $85,000 today.
The 79th Arkansas Derby April 11, 2015 was won by American Pharoah, the first Oaklawn-raced horse to capture the Triple Crown. He also won Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes that year.
Other champions to use Oaklawn as a launching pad include: Temperence Hill, Cigar, Curlin, Paseana, Azeri, Tiffany Lass, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Rachel Alexandra, Lookin At Lucky, Blind Luck, Zenyatta, Close Hatches, Work All Week and Will Take Charge.
Although he never raced at Oaklawn, 1941 Triple Crown winner Whirlaway was one of the many champions that has called Hot Springs home during the winter.
2004 Arkansas Derby winner Smarty Jones went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and finished second in the Belmont Stakes, narrowly missing the coveted Triple Crown.
2005 Arkansas Derby winner Afleet Alex also won the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. He came in third in the Kentucky Derby.
Click here for more on the history of Oaklawn Park.