01/21/2005 12:00AM

Oaklawn opens big

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
A shirtsleeve crowd of 22,831 turned out under sunny skies and warm temps for opening day at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Oaklawn Park opened its 101st meet on Friday under sunny skies and with a roaring crowd of 22,831. Temperatures ranged in the mid-60's, and the grandstand was overflowing with patrons enjoying a balmy day for January.

Even the horses benefited from the warm temperatures, as the field for the $50,000 - which was won by Razor - was saddled in the infield. Normally, stakes early in the meet are saddled in the indoor paddock because of cold weather.

"I tell you what, it was a beautiful day," said jockey Roman Chapa, who won his first Oaklawn stakes aboard Razor. "You couldn't have a better opening day."

The grandstand was busy, and early in the card the lines were long for the track's signature corned beef sandwiches, which were on sale for 50 cents. The sandwiches were sold out by 2:45 p.m. Central.

On the track, a familiar face started off the meet with a win, when Calvin Borel - who had not ridden at Oaklawn on a regular basis since 2002 - won the first race aboard Scat Cat Jamey ($8.20). The victory put Borel nine wins shy of 4,000 for his career. Borel won the Oaklawn riding title in 1995 and 2001.

As for new faces, Michael Gill, the nation's leading owner, who has 40 horses here, did not waste time taking action. Known for aggressive claiming, Gill claimed a horse out of the first race, Bold Banker, for $7,500. The new trainer is Tim Hooper. Gill also started the favorite in the first race, Toddler, who ran third.

Handle on the opening-day 10-race card was $4,043,065, with $1.6 million of it bet ontrack at Oaklawn.

In all, it was another successful opening for the meet, located in a resort town whose population of 35,750 swells for the meet each spring, and is nearly doubled on Arkansas Derby Day.

Last year, the opening-day crowd for the track's 100th birthday celebration was 25,137.

In the Dixieland, Razor ($5.20) settled three lengths behind Sooner Pride, who jumped out to the early lead in the 5 1/2-furlong raceand was joined on the front end by Can't Trick Jake. The leaders dueled through an opening quarter in 22.20 seconds with Can't Trick Jake taking over through a half-mile in 46 seconds. Razor advanced on the turn, was between rivals at the top of stretch, then drew clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths, covering the distance over a fast track in 1:05.16.

"He was a real gentleman for me, settling off the pace," said Chapa. "All he did was wait to be asked to run, and when I asked him to run he sure did."

Smoke Smoke Smoke won the photo for second, finishing a nose in front of third-place finisher Cherokee Path.

Razor, trained by Steve Asmussen, earned $30,000 for the win, his third from five career starts. It was his first stakes wins, and it raised his career earnings to $80,520.