01/28/2003 12:00AM

Oaklawn, warmer, ready to open


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Oaklawn Park is expected to begin its meet in earnest on Friday, with forecasters calling for sunny skies and a high of 60 degrees. Last week, a cold front left the track's racing surface frozen, and officials were forced to cancel the first three days of the season, from Jan. 24-26.

The lost days will not be made up, and the Oaklawn meet will now run 52 days, through April 12.

Training hours were normal for the first time in three days Tuesday with the temperature warming up to the 40's. Earlier in the week, freezing weather had forced the track to open for training late on both Sunday and Monday.

The forecast for Saturday and Sunday calls for temperatures in the high 60's. The two stakes that were canceled last week will be brought back, with the $50,000 Dixie Belle for 3-year-old fillies to be run Friday, and the $50,000 Mountain Valley for 3-year-olds set for Sunday.

Entries for the opening day card were to be drawn Wednesday.