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Park sees good opening day turnout despite temperatures

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The Sentinel-Record/Grace Brown OFF AND RUNNING: Horses break from the gate during the first race of the season at Oaklawn Park on Friday under abunda...

The track at Oaklawn Park opened for training as planned at 7 a.m. Friday, despite below-freezing temperatures.

"Things are looking good," Jennifer Hoyt, media relations manager, said. "The sun is out, and things are running smoothly."

The 114th live meet kicked off Friday at 12:30 p.m., and according to Hoyt a big crowd turned out for the first race. Some die-hard fans even ventured into the cold to the outdoor portion of the grandstand.

The 57-day season is highlighted by $30 million in total purses and 31 stakes races.

Oaklawn unveiled a new entrance to the grandstand on Thursday featuring a life-size bronze statue of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah as its focal point.

The statue was created by an artist out of Philadelphia, James Peniston, whose father was a longtime friend of the late Oaklawn Jockey Club President Charles Cella.

The statue is not only a lasting tribute to American Pharoah, but also to Charles Cella.

"His vision for the track was to have the very best 3-year-olds come through Hot Springs on their way to the Triple Crown races," Louis Cella said in a news release. "His dream started coming true in 2004, the year Smarty Jones won the Rebel, Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and came full circle when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown. We look forward to continuing my father's legacy by attracting the top horses for years to come."

Oaklawn will again be offering the Show Bet Bonus, which makes the easiest wager in racing more profitable and fun for on-track guests only. With this bet, the payoff on show wagers made at Oaklawn will be higher than the payoff on the same show wager made off-track or through ADW services.

Promotions continue over the holiday weekend with 50-cent corned beef sandwiches and 10-cent soft drinks served today, and an Oaklawn Cap Giveaway on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

This is also the day Oaklawn launches its rich 3-year-old stakes program that culminates with the $1 million Arkansas Derby with the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes.

On Presidents Day, the 3-year-olds will take aim at the $500,000 Southwest Stakes and the older horses go head to head in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap. The Progressive Cash Giveaway on Feb. 18 will start with $2,000 after the first race on through the 9th race when $10,000 is given away.

Oaklawn's 2018 live meet continues through April 14 on a Thursday to Sunday basis. Gates open every race day at 11 a.m., except Arkansas Derby Day when gates open at 10:30 a.m.

Local on 01/13/2018

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