Oaklawn Park Profile

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D.S. Williamson

February 1st, 2017

Per the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas, horse racing enthusiasts used to run races in Hot Springs, Arkansas before the track was even built. The Oaklawn Jockey Club was formed in 1904. Since 1907, Oaklawn Park has been the only thoroughbred race track in Arkansas. It's taken a while for Oaklawn Park to become one of the premier racetracks in the United States.

See below for the races and the horses that won the races that put Oaklawn Park on the map.

Most Famous Races at Oaklawn Park

Grade 1 Arkansas Derby

Plenty of good horses had won the Arkansas Derby. But, the first truly great horse to win the Arkansas Derby in my opinion was the brilliant Smarty Jones in 2004. Smarty Jones had the best shot of winning the Triple Crown from all of the horses with a shot before American Pharoah did it in 2015. Smarty dominated both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. He barley lost the Belmont.

Since 2004, the Arkansas Derby has become one of the top Kentucky Derby preps of the year. Afleet Alex won the Arkansas Derby in 2005. Curlin won the race in 2007. Bodemeister won it in 2012. American Pharoah used the Arkansas Derby as a springboard to his Kentucky Derby and eventual Triple Crown win. In 2016, Creator won the Arkansas Derby before going on to win the Belmont Stakes.

Grade 1 Apple Blossom

Some of the greatest mares in racing history took home the Apple Blossom trophy. Bayakoa won the race in 1989. Paseana won back to back Apple Blossoms in 1992 and 1993. In 1998, Escena won the Apple Blossom. A year later, the ill-fated Banshee Breeze won the race.

But, the true star of the Apple Blossom, before Zenyatta won it in 2008 and 2010, was one of the greatest race  mares I've ever seen, Azeri. Also ridden by Mike Smith, Azeri won 3 straight Apple Blossoms from 2002 through 2004. She took home 7 graded races in 2002, 5 of the 7 graded wins were Grade 1 races. Azeri was so good in 2002 that she took home Horse of the Year honors.

Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap

Without a doubt the most famous race horse to ever win the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap is Cigar. Before Zenyatta, there was Cigar. Trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Jerry Baily, Cigar fell one race short of breaking Citation's incredible 16 wins in a row record. In the 1995 Oaklawn Handicap, the son of Palace Music and the grandson of the great Seattle Slew, held off Concern while running past the gutsy Silver Goblin.

Other well-known horses have won the Oaklawn Handicap. Medaglia D'Oro, one of the greatest horses ever trained by Bobby Frankel, took home the Oaklawn Handicap trophy in 2003. Preakness winner Snow Chief won the Oaklawn in 1987. Wild Again in 1984, Turkoman in 1986, Best Pal in 1992, Lawyer Ron in 2007, and Will Take Charge in 2014 also won the Oaklawn Handicap.

Great racing at Oaklawn Park continues this week. Oaklawn, without a doubt, has become one of the best racetracks in the United States.