Feb. 20, 2011
When Friday dawned at Oaklawn there were hopes that at least 50,000 folks might pass through the turnstiles at Oaklawn on this big weekend. Now, as we anticipate a big Monday turnout, it's more likely that the number will top 60,000 and the health of racing in Hot Springs will once again be strong.
Only the protestors in the Middle East or Wisconsin politicians seem to effectively bring out big crowds like we can at Oaklawn, but these crowds are happy people who are having a great time. This is a real celebration and so much fun, given the lousy weather which caused the cancellation of eight racing days earlier in the season.
Weather forecasters have been trying to dim the bright lights locally with predictions of some rain on Monday afternoon, but the fact remains that we'll be giving away $55,000 to patrons on hand and no one is required to watch the races outside. Enough longshots are winning races that it takes just one good ticket to cover your expenses for a day and the lure of an 11-horse field for the Southwest Stakes is more than enough to encourage Arkansas to travel to Hot Springs with umbrellas so as not to miss anything that might be big news at the track on Monday.
Radio and tv stations will start covering the activities at Oaklawn by 6:00 a.m. and there will be a crush of fans eager to get here. Hope springs eternal to the racetracker and Oaklawn fans always "hope" they're about to see a champion in action. It's happened so many times in recent years, they are now believers.
It might be Sunday night, but restaurants and hotels in town are packed and the Gaming Center at Oaklawn is abuzz with activity. You'd think tomorrow was Derby Day. For those who take home the cash prizes given away after each race, it might be better than Derby Day. But for the rest of us, this is really fun. This is the kind of fun which inspired over 44,000 to come out to see Zenyatta overpower her rivals in the 2010 Apple Blossom Invitational. As a matter of fact the fans this weekend have been storming a stand selling Zenyatta merchandise each day we're open. They were starved for racing and they're proving it.
It sure is fun anticipating what the rest of this meeting has in store.