02/01/2007 1:00AM

Oaklawn cancels week of racing


Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., has canceled its Thursday through Sunday programs because of winter weather that has left the track unsuitable for racing, officials announced Thursday morning.

Racing is scheduled to resume on Thursday, Feb. 8.

Sleet hit Hot Springs on Wednesday night, and temperatures were in the 20's on Thursday morning. Despite crews working the track around the clock, Oaklawn was unable to open for training on Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

"It's really frozen," trainer Bob Holthus said of the racetrack Thursday. "I don't think we'll get to train tomorrow. [It's been] too cold, too long. That frost has got in that track. I think we'll be lucky to train Saturday. Without being able to train, you can't run."

When a track is frozen, crews cannot harrow a deep enough cushion, a situation that can lead to bruised heels and soles in horses. If racing is conducted on such a track, frozen clods dug up by the horses' hooves can be dangerous to the horses and jockeys.

The decision to cancel the race week was made following a meeting with horsemen Thursday morning. A major factor was a forecast calling for another round of inclement weather, said Terry Wallace, spokesman for Oaklawn. Local meteorologists are expecting one to two inches of snow and sleet to hit the area Thursday night, with snow flurries expected into Saturday.

The lone stakes scheduled for the weekend, the $50,000 King Cotton on Saturday, has been rescheduled for Feb. 9, according to Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope. A $60,007 pick six carryover for Thursday will be brought back Feb. 8.

This is the second straight year that Oaklawn has lost a weekend of racing to winter weather. The track lost President's Day weekend last February.

Saturday's Arkansas Racing Commission meeting at Oaklawn has been rescheduled for Feb. 10.

Oaklawn is scheduled to remain open for simulcasting and gaming.