01/13/2011 1:56PM

Oaklawn opener in jeopardy due to cold temperatures

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Freezing temperatures are threatening Oaklawn Park’s opening day program on Friday, but officials are proceeding with plans to start the meet as scheduled and hope to be able to train over the surface Thursday afternoon.

If a decision is made to cancel the Friday card, it will be made early Thursday afternoon, said David Longinotti, the assistant general manager for racing at Oaklawn.

“As things stand right now, we plan to do everything we can to race tomorrow,” Longinotti said.

Hot Springs was hit with more than four inches of snow on Sunday and temperatures have been dipping into the teens at night, forcing the track to cancel training for four straight mornings, from Monday through Thursday.

The forecast for Friday is a high of 46 degrees, but the surface has not been able to fully thaw. It was 23 degrees in Hot Springs at 11 a.m. on Thursday.

Oaklawn officials have been closely monitoring the the track, which is still partially covered in snow.

“It’s got to do some thawing on its own,” Longinotti said Thursday morning. “We can do some things to help it along, but it’s kind of got to start on its own before the things we can do can really help it out.”

Longinotti said if Oaklawn is unable to race Friday, he is confident, based on the forecast, that the track will be able to run Saturday. The overnight low for Friday is forecast to be above freezing, and the high for Saturday is expected to be 46 degrees. Oaklawn was in the process of taking entries for the Saturday card on Thursday.

Despite the trip-up by Mother Nature, Oaklawn drew 98 entries for its nine-race card on Friday.