01/16/2009 1:00AM

Silver City rolls despite the cold


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Oaklawn Park has developed a reputation as a launching pad for 3-year-olds, and Silver City looked like he might be another Hot Springs runner with a future on Friday as he simply cruised in the opening-day $50,000 Dixieland Stakes.

A crowd of 15,863 was on hand for the card, which was run under extreme conditions. Temperatures barely rose above 25 degrees all afternoon, and while officials said the weather "impaired" attendance compared to last year's crowd of 20,819, they considered it a victory just to be running. The track maintenance crew worked the surface through the night Thursday, and Oaklawn general manager Eric Jackson credited their work and that of track superintendent Steve Breckling.

"I thought he pulled a rabbit out of the hat," Jackson said of Breckling. "I can think back over the years that I've been here three or four times when it's just been miraculous what we did with the track, and last night is one of those times. I guess it's been under freezing now for 48 hours. It went down to 16 last night, has not gotten above freezing today.

"This is not going to measure up to most opening days simply because of the weather, but it sure beats not racing."

All-sources handle on the nine-race card was $4,205,368.

Silver City ($3.20) won his third straight race when he sat off the pace set by Regardlesofoutcome, overtook him, and went on to cover the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04. Silver City won by a downshifted four lengths, with Miguel Mena aboard for owner Clarence Scharbauer Jr. and trainer Bret Calhoun.

Calhoun said Silver City could make his next start in the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on Feb. 16, which is the first step on the road to the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

Jockey Quincy Hamilton got off to a fast start with a double on Friday.

"I knew I had some business and I was just praying for the best and it turned out to be a good opening day," he said, adding that the crowd was into the card. "I love it. I came back to unsaddle and there were people hollering my name, and you don't get that at some other tracks."

Patrons hit the concession lines hard upon arriving at the track, with fans lined up 20 deep for 50-cent corned beef sandwiches on the first floor. The apron was also active, but not as much as last year, when temperatures for opening day were in the 40s.

"It's cold, so we're staying inside," said Larry Drogsvold, a 20-year Oaklawn patron from nearby Malvern.