1905 – On February 24, Oaklawn Park Race Track opened its doors to a crowd of some 3,000 race fans. The day was declared a half-day holiday by Hot Springs officials.
1907 – Due to political problems in the state, racing was suspended.
1916 – Racing resumed at Oaklawn. The track is now owned by Louis Cella.
1936 – The Arkansas Derby was born with a purse $5,000.
1945 – Racing throughout the United States ended for an indefinite period at the request because of WWII. A 30-day season was held on November 5 through December 8 for the lost Spring meet. On opening day, an estimated crowd of 4,200 attended, and $189,289 was wagered.
1952 – Oaklawn gained national attention when its handle rose from a daily average of $336,341 to $434,667. Attendance climbs from 7,057 a day to 7,739.
1959 – The Meeting reached two milestones when its averages reached 10,000 in attendance and $500,000 pari-mutuel handle.
1960’s – Par 3 golf course in the infield was used in the off season.
1965 – Arkansas Derby purse increased to $50,000.
1970 – Records continue to be broken. During the 50-day meeting, a total crowd of 556,000 attended and bet $43,366,921. The average attendance was 11,120.
1973 – The first running of the Fantasy Stakes, for 3-year-old fillies, took place.
1974 – The Racing Festival of the South was born.
1980 – More than 250,000 fans attended the Racing Festival of the South. Temperance Hill won the Arkansas Derby.
1983 – Largest Average Daily Attendance Record Set 23,271 (still stands)
1984 – The purse for the Arkansas Derby was increased to $500,000.
1986 – The standing record single day attendance of 71,203 was set.
1991 – The Oaklawn Club was completely renovated.
1996 – Oaklawn Park race track achieved a record handle of $10,653,518 on Arkansas Derby Day.
2000 – Instant Racing, a pari-mutuel electronic system which allows players to wager on previously-run races, was introduced and field-tested at Oaklawn Park race track.
2011 – The average daily attendance grew 3% in 2011 from 2010 levels to 11,649. Arkansas Derby Day saw an attendance of 62,364
There has never been a turf track at Oaklawn Park.
Horseplayers Association has ranked Oaklawn Park as the 9th best track in all of North America. And, in my opinion, should be a “must see” by all who love the sport of Kings.
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