01/08/2015 9:53AM

Oaklawn cancels opening weekend due to cold

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Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., has canceled opening weekend due to freezing temperatures, the track announced Thursday morning. Oaklawn was to open on Friday and race Saturday and Sunday. The new opening date has been set for Thursday, Jan. 15.

Oaklawn made an early decision to cancel the opening weekend as a convenience to patrons and horsemen, said Jennifer Hoyt, a spokeswoman for the track. She said officials inspected the track surface and spoke with horsemen early Thursday morning, when it was 9 degrees in Hot Springs.

"Our track maintenance crews worked to maintain the racing surface all night,” David Longinotti, director of racing for Oaklawn. "It became clear shortly after sunrise that we were not going to be able to hold it. The safety of the horses and riders is always our first concern, and this weather is just not conductive for racing. We look forward to kicking off things next week."

With more Arctic temperatures forecast, the decision was made to call off the opener. Hoyt said factors were the safety of jockeys and riders. She said the Thursday opener next week will be the first Thursday opening day in the history of Oaklawn.

It was sunny and 17 degrees mid-morning Thursday at Oaklawn, as tractors were working the surface. The hope is the track can open for training at 1 p.m. Central Thursday.  

Oaklawn has rescheduled the $100,000 Dixie Belle for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs for next Thursday, Jan. 15, said Hoyt. The $100,000 Fifth Season for older horses at 1 1/16 miles will now be run next Friday, Jan. 16. 

The forecast for the rest of the week calls for highs in the mid-30s, with overnight lows ranging from 17 to 28 degrees, according to The Weather Channel.

Walter More than 1 year ago
Wasn't there a time when OP opened in Feb? January is just too cold in Hot Springs.
Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
That was when Oaklawn raced six days a week. The only track that can get away with a six-day week now is Saratoga, and even at the Spa there has been talk of going to five days. It's not like it once was. This would have been the earliest opener in Oaklawn's history I believe. They are smart to cancel now because they also would be opposite the Divisional round of the NFL Playoffs on Saturday and some of this weekend's hoopla would have been taken away by the College Football National Championship game taking place in Dallas on Monday (some people heading there for the days leading up to that).
thesouthwasright_99 More than 1 year ago
The track used to open on Washington's birthday. I used to come then regularly. January is too early and too cold !
Boyd Cord More than 1 year ago
I have to admit. I would not want to be on a Race Horse in freezing cold weather
Mel More than 1 year ago
Tell that to NYRA
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Hope all those great Corned Beef Sandwiches can be preserved for next week.
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
They gave them away to employees and charity.
Tom Watkins More than 1 year ago
They donated the sandwiches to several charities and to people working on the backside.