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Oaklawn Park - Arkansas Derby

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  • Oaklawn Park - Arkansas Derby

    I'm tossing around the idea of taking a vacation day from work and heading down to my nearest track for their big day. That's still about a 200-mile drive, 400 round trip, but doable although a long day. I've never been there. I'm not expecting them to be Churchill, where I went to the Derby in 1987 and the BC in 1994, but just wondering about the place.

    So if you've been to Oaklawn:

    1. View? Do the cheap seats actually see the races?
    2. Crowds? How packed on AD day?
    3. Atmosphere/overall good place to go to the races?
    4. Horses? Subject to revision, who is planning on the Oaklawn route this year to the KD? They've had some nice horses there the last few years. This would be as close as I could get to this year's Derby.

    Thanks for any input.

  • #2
    I can't answer your questions, but I've also been tossing around the idea of taking a weekend trip to Hot Springs for the Arkansas Derby. I've never been to Oaklawn, either. It's a bit farther from me, so I'll probably make a 2 day adventure of it.

    I didn't even think about getting reserved seats or anything. I didn't realize it was that big of a deal... even for stakes races at most tracks (barring TC races, BC races, etc.), you can usually just enter under general admission and have no problem finding a good vantage point.
    Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

    Comment


    • #3
      Take a look at their promo (from 2007) for Oaklawn as posted on youtube.com

      Oaklawn 2007: Somebody's Gonna Win! (6 min)

      I confess I have not been there however I'm not under any impression its a 'dodgy track' by anymeans in accomodating fans whatsoever. In fact it has a very, very healthy regular attendence figures every racing day and with that almost always comes a fun attmosphere. The Arkansas Derby, keep in mind, gets massive crowd numbers (well north of 55,000) so I'd really look into what seating options there are.

      Saratoga on Travers Day in recent years has only managed (once you filter out the spinners) about 50k and it can be a difficult getting a piece of ground to stand on in the general admission areas trackside. I can't imagine what Spa would be like with a true 70k on the grounds.

      Comment


      • #4
        never miss the chance to see a big race

        You never know who you might see before they got famous.

        I saw Seattle Slew race his first race as a three year old because we decided to go to Hialeah that day.

        and I saw Cigar in the early part of his streak (we had gone to see Holy Bull).

        ya never know.
        A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton

        Comment


        • #5
          there are LOTSSSS of people in the grandstand every race day at Oaklawn... it is a very popular place. It's kind of similar to Saratoga, in the sense that the entire town is race-horse oriented, pretty neat. Definitely something you should do if you get the shot... might be a little packed, but it's not like Derby Day or anything. As far as stock running, it's the last KY Derby Prep Race, so there will be very nice horses running in it... (i.e. Curlin last year...) I know my early pool KY derby pick is pointed for it, Golden Yank! He's the man

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          • #6
            While I personally have never been to Oaklawn I have friends who race there and they like it.

            Hope you get a chance to go and have a great time.

            www.cmmbarnbrats.com
            Barn Brats Horse Themed Glassware
            www.cmmbarnbrats.com

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Centsability View Post
              there are LOTSSSS of people in the grandstand every race day at Oaklawn... it is a very popular place. It's kind of similar to Saratoga, in the sense that the entire town is race-horse oriented, pretty neat. Definitely something you should do if you get the shot... might be a little packed, but it's not like Derby Day or anything. As far as stock running, it's the last KY Derby Prep Race, so there will be very nice horses running in it... (i.e. Curlin last year...) I know my early pool KY derby pick is pointed for it, Golden Yank! He's the man
              So would you recommend reserved seating? I always knew the place drew a good crowd. But from my understanding, it's a very large but manageable crowd, which is why I wasn't particuarly concerned about it.

              I'm excited to get the chance to go. I'm glad Dressagetraks started this thread, as it's only made me more excited.
              Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                I just emailed Oaklawn to ask them the reserve seating vs admission at the gate question.

                I'm getting excited about this too! Haven't actually seen a race in person since the 1994 BC.

                Comment


                • #9
                  well, it depends what kind of seating you want. If you want box seats or suites, etc, etc, I would call Oaklawn right away and get the pricing and reserve a spot. Like I said, it's a very popular spot in the party town on a regular basis, but you should definitely go, you will have a blast, and not to mention, get to see some fantastic racing and fast horses in the making!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Texarkana View Post
                    I can't answer your questions, but I've also been tossing around the idea of taking a weekend trip to Hot Springs for the Arkansas Derby. I've never been to Oaklawn, either. It's a bit farther from me, so I'll probably make a 2 day adventure of it.

                    I didn't even think about getting reserved seats or anything. I didn't realize it was that big of a deal... even for stakes races at most tracks (barring TC races, BC races, etc.), you can usually just enter under general admission and have no problem finding a good vantage point.
                    Me, too! Never been there either, but want to go. I hear it's a lot like Saratoga.

                    Texarkana, I'm not far from you at all - lemme know if you want to carpool.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SleepyFox View Post
                      I hear it's a lot like Saratoga.
                      Not entirely related to this thread but despite having gone to Saratoga all my life I'd likely give Keeneland a slight nod over Spa on a lot of points. I can only take so much of the down-state bada-bing flavor that Saratoga gets weighted down with.

                      Call me crazy but I do like clean restrooms, as well as the absence of pealing lead paint and no sticky floors. I prefer to wager use self-service machines but at least the Keeneland mutual clerks are less sour then the NYRA guys. [Arlington Park, from my experience, tend to have the worst] The fields are bigger, quality a tad higher, and plenty of off beat things to see at Spa but I've found the fans at Keeneland more informed, vastly more respectful, but no less interested and thrilled to be watching racing.

                      I don't mind, I suppose out of tradition, getting nicked for a parking fee by using someone's backyard as you do at Saratoga vs. parking for free under a lovely canopy of trees in Lexington. The hawking of almost everything at the edges of the Spa grounds is part of the atmosphere Etc, etc. I’m sure like a Pimlico on Preakness Day, Oaklawn on Derby day can be both a blast and hellish in many ways.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SleepyFox View Post
                        Me, too! Never been there either, but want to go. I hear it's a lot like Saratoga.

                        Texarkana, I'm not far from you at all - lemme know if you want to carpool.
                        That sounds like a great idea. This will be fun. I hope we can all make it.

                        And Dressagetraks-- do pass on what you find out about reserved seating and admission. The website doesn't seem to make too much of a fuss about it.
                        Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          From the horse's mouth:

                          You do not have to purchase advance tickets it is suggested to do so, reserved seats are $4.50 each, gate admission is $2.00 each and if you park in one of Oaklawn’s parking lot it is $2.00 to park. We are extremely packed that day 50,000 to 70,000 or more. Weather permitting our infield will be open we have bleacher seats out there we also have bleacher seating outside on the apron facing the race track. Outdoor seating is free. We open that morning at 10 am the first post time is 12 noon. We will also have about 300 seats go on sale that morning if you want to wait and come look around first. I hope this helps it is a very exciting day worth coming to see.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I haven't been in years, but I used to go with my dad back in my much younger days. Hot Springs is a great town-lots to do. I loved Oaklawn. Can't tell you abou the seating but I know Derby Day is packed. Usually some good horses running in the AR derby-a few times the KY Derby winner. I was spoiled though. We had a friend with a box on the glass at the finish line who used to take pity and give us his box.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Quote:Originally Posted by Centsability
                              As far as stock running, it's the last KY Derby Prep Race, so there will be very nice horses running in it... (i.e. Curlin last year...)

                              UMMMMMM-- Technically the last prep for the Derby is the Bluegrass Stakes here at Keeneland
                              The only difference between a runaway and a fast gallop is nothing but a SMILE
                              Most horses cross the Rainbow Bridge, but TEDDY JUMPED IT!!!
                              Member of the COTH Enabler Clique

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Ah, but the Keeneland winner almost never wins the Ky Derby.

                                I'm thinking about heading west myself for the Oaklawn Derby. The Arlington Hotel is already fully booked, and most motel prices double for the weekend. It's too far to drive from here to there and back in one day, so accommodations will be necessary.

                                Forgot to ask: is there a dress code? I went to the Blue Grass Stakes once with my cousin who had owners' seats, and we had to dress all the way up with heels, hose and hats--dresses, too.
                                "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                                Thread killer Extraordinaire

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  A dress code? Ack. Forgetaboutit. With a 5-hour drive in that morning and home that evening, I'll be wearing my usual uniform of blue jeans and tennis shoes. I will add a horsey sweatshirt or T-shirt for the occasion, weather depending.

                                  Must also remember to add into trip budget figures the money for program, T-shirt, commemorative mug or facsimile thereof, outrageously priced lunch and drinks, cute little model horse in the shop they no doubt have, and plenty of film for the camera. And just a little bit, no more, of betting money.

                                  I'm going to call tomorrow and reserve a ticket, and I'll report how it's looking in terms of seating sales. Hope all remaining seats aren't way back out of sight of the finish line.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by vineyridge View Post
                                    Forgot to ask: is there a dress code? I went to the Blue Grass Stakes once with my cousin who had owners' seats, and we had to dress all the way up with heels, hose and hats--dresses, too.
                                    It depends on where you are going. I wouldn't worry about it for grandstand seats - as long as you are basically decent, it's not a problem at any track I know - but if you have an upscale ticket for a box or dining room or will enter the paddock, ask.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Just ordered a ticket, and the day is completely booked except for some single seats left scattered around. It is almost sold out already. I asked for the finish line or as close to as possible, and she found me one between the two finish lines but with a kind of wall thing in front of me, so it hadn't gone yet. Long as I can see over, I don't mind a wall.

                                      But there are no seats together remaining, and there aren't too many singles. If you want to go, I'd call the track ASAP.

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Does anybody know if they saddle the horses on the turf course at Oaklawn, like they do for the Preakness? I was just watching a tape of the 2006 Ark Derby. It did not show the horses being saddled, because coverage was cutting in from another race, but at the first shot of the horses, they were circling on what looked like the turf course.

                                        Countdown to the trip in place, and I'm definitely taking my camera. Horses against turf course would sure make for some purdy pictures.

                                        Comment

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