Oaklawn flies away for a longer run

Oaklawn in December doesn’t look much different from Oaklawn in January, February, or any other time.

The only difference, now that Hot Springs Racecourse has extended its Live Thoroughbred season to 66 days (starting December 3 instead of mid-January and Friday through Sunday through May 8) is that There are some wacky horse-themed holiday decorations scattered around. its cavernous spaces.

Visitors always enter for free; mobile or on-call tickets are required for the grandstand seats on the top floor, but I prefer to walk around with the hoi polloi on the main level and sit outside on the steps with the rail birds near the line of arrival.

Parking is $ 5 (cash only and free if you arrive after 2 p.m.) unless you want to drive through the pleasant residential area along Trivista Drive and park on the other side of the track, then cross its parking lot.

Do not try to bring backpacks, food or drink outside, or guns. Face masks are encouraged, but hardly anyone wore one when I visited on a recent Friday.

Here’s what’s new since last time I was there: The trail’s signature corned beef sandwiches are now $ 9 (tax included). Bloody Marys cost $ 10. A bottled Michelob Ultra costs $ 6.

With that in mind, I gave up my Oaklawn tradition of drinking a Bloody Mary on arrival and got an aluminum bottle of Ultra (it stays cold longer than a squeeze, and although it is a decent beer, it doesn’t go down very well once it warms up), rejected the corned beef, and tried the street tacos ($ 6).

They were terrific – pork (or chicken or beef) slowly cooked in adobo sauce on a trio of soft four inch flour tortillas, topped with grated cheese and fresh jalapenos and served with sour cream and salsa. I’m afraid my multi-year love affair with the corned beef sandwich is coming to an end.

There isn’t a single thing I understand about the intricacies of betting other than betting $ 2 on a long shot and hoping for the best. My method is more cost effective than you might think, especially when the day’s races are mostly brief six stages in length – where anything can happen – and the entries that day averaged five or six kids. 3 years per hour of publication.

We texted our friend who owns several thoroughbreds to see if any of his horses were running the day we visited; they weren’t, so we were alone.

After a visit to the paddock to see the entries for each race (there were a lot of white and spotted horses that day which is unusual), I decided that while I enjoy interacting with the pleasant employees who take bets, I would try the digital betting machines, which accept cash, credits and vouchers.

It took me a few minutes to master them, but they’re pretty intuitive and I was able to load my dollar bills into them without much trauma. My admittedly unscientific strategy paid off: I put in $ 3 to show a 3-year long shot in the fourth race, which rewarded me with a win of $ 6.20. He was covering the cost of one of the Michelob Ultras.

It was a good enough stroke of luck for me, although I regretted not having put money on two bets that I placed virtually, as these two horses won and placed respectively.

After hanging out at the edge of the track, it was fun walking around the stylish casino – bright and noisy, but not too loud, and no smoking is allowed, which makes it breathable – where it was more crowded that on the track. Watching a gathering of eight players at a noisy craps table was quite entertaining. And there’s a self-serve soda and coffee bar, with a “fat” option on the coffee. Nice touch.

The casino connects to the glamorous new Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, with a contemporary sweeping lobby, a handsome bar, and a beautifully designed wall displaying trophies from Oaklawn’s historic past.

The afternoon passed quickly, as usual. Coming home was filled with hassle, as it usually is, thanks to the endless construction of I-30 between Hot Springs and Bryant – will this project ever be finished? – and an unexpected arrival of precipitation.

This helped pay attention to the low gas prices at stations along the access road (although the very idea of ​​trying to get on and off the freeway with millions of roaring trucks side by side discouraged to take advantage of it), to listen to the always original musical presentations of the community radio station KABF, and to note that among the large number of car dealerships, restaurants and newly built roadside retailers, there there remains a considerable number of restaurants, small motels and mothers. and-pop that have been around for years.

When I first visited Oaklawn in the 1980s, I remember the volume of traffic heading there on Saturdays crowded the roads. This is no longer the case.

But like the venerable I-30 businesses, Oaklawn persists.

Karen Martin is editor-in-chief of Perspective.

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