01/22/2008 1:00AM

Oaklawn's opener strong


Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., drew a cumulative 61,022 patrons - an average of 15,256 a day - over its four-day opening weekend, with temperatures consistently in the mid-30s for much of that period. The total handle on the track's races during the Friday-through-Monday opener was $13.4 million (average of $3.4 million a day). Of that amount, $4.4 million was bet ontrack on Oaklawn races.

The average daily attendance on last year's opening weekend, which comprised three days, was 15,419. Total handle came to $11.4 million, an average of $3.8 million a day. A total of $3.3 million was bet ontrack those three days.

"All in all it's been a pretty good weekend," said Eric Jackson, general manager of Oaklawn. "The weather wasn't ideal.

"At the same time," he said, noting that some areas south of the track got hit with severe winter weather, "we got lucky on the weather."

Oaklawn has had a four-day opening weekend on one other occasion, in the 1990s, Jackson said. This year, the opener happened to fall the same weekend as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Oaklawn gave away Smarty Jones bobblehead dolls with paid admission Monday and drew a crowd of 11,871.