01/11/2013 8:23PM

Oaklawn: Donoharm wins Fifth Season in opening-day photo finish

Coady Photography/Oaklawn
Donoharm, with Cliff Berry riding, defeats Skyring by a neck in the Fifth Season.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Oaklawn Park opened its meet Friday with a slew of new faces in the entries, but when the horses hit the wire in featured $75,000 Fifth Season, it was two-time defending riding champ Cliff Berry winning a photo aboard Donoharm. Skyring held off a late-charging Win Willy for second, with the finish thrilling the ontrack crowd of 19,633.

Attendance was up over last year's opening crowd of 18,087. Oaklawn handled $2,954,686 on its nine-race card from all sources. Of that amount, $1,835,518 was bet offtrack, and $1,119,168 ontrack.

"It's always good to get off to a good start," said David Longinotti, assistant general manager for racing for Oaklawn.

In the Fifth Season, Donoharm ($29) launched a three-wide bid on the final turn and drove to a neck win over Skyring. He stalked the pace set by Double Rah Rah, who, over a track rated good, took the field through fractions of 24.75 seconds for the opening quarter, 50.01 for the half-mile, and 1:16.15 for six furlongs. Donoharm rallied through the stretch to cover the 1 1/16 miles for older horses in 1:49.07.

"The track was tiring today, and he was just determined to get to the wire," said Berry, who was aboard for the partnership of Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch.

Bret Calhoun trains Donoharm, and chose the Fifth Season for the horse over other options because of the timing of the race in relation to Donoharm's last start, a win in the $70,000 Sam's Town at Delta Downs on Nov. 17.

"He's in pretty good form," said Calhoun. "He's won five out of his last six, and we wanted to give him a little extra time.

"I think the horse has continued to get better all the time. A lot of that's pedigree. He just continues to improve."

Donoharm, who was winning his fourth straight race Friday, is a 4-year-old by Lemon Drop Kid. Calhoun said next-race plans are pending for Donoharm, who right now will remain at his Oaklawn division. Calhoun will have about 20 horses this meet in Hot Springs.

"I'm not sure what we'll do right now," Calhoun said of next-race plans for Donoharm. "Whatever we do, we'll try to give him a month in between or so."

** Robby Albarado, who won Oaklawn riding titles in 1996 and 1997, is back at the track for the first time in years and had a riding triple Friday. He won the first and last races for trainer Cody Autrey, as well as the third race with the promising 3-year-old filly Liberty Girl for newcomer Eoin Harty.

** Oaklawn's grandstand was hectic, and required a few dance moves to negotiate traffic. Friends who had not seen each other since last season wished each other Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, while large crowds gathered around the indoor paddock to check out horses. On the apron, patrons enjoyed sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s. The opener came two days earlier than last season's, and it was one of the earliest starts to the meet in several years, according to Eric Jackson, general manager of Oaklawn.   

"And who'd have thought we'd gotten weather like this on Jan 11," said Longinotti.