Oaklawn Park is one of my favorite racetracks in the nation: it is laid-back fun full of Southern hospitality, fantastic sport, and instant friendships with fellow attendees. If you’re planning a trip to Oaklawn for the track’s first Kentucky Derby prep race of the year, the Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 15, here are 10 things to know before you go!
1. The race is named for one of the greats:
Smarty Jones was the darling of the sports world in 2004, and before he won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, he captured the Southwest Stakes, the Rebel Stakes, and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Due to his many successes on the Hot Springs, Ark. track, Oaklawn named a Kentucky Derby prep race in his honor in 2010. Speaking of the best of the best…
2. Oaklawn is the home of champions:
Greats like American Pharoah, Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Gun Runner, and Afleet Alex have all run at Oaklawn Park. If you head to the track on a big day, you have every chance of seeing equine royalty in Hot Springs!
3. There’s an app for that:
Oaklawn Park has its own betting app called Oaklawn Anywhere, and it’s a fantastic way to watch and wager on the races even if you can’t get to the track. Be sure to download it before the Smarty Jones so you can follow the racing all meet long!
4. Star spotting:
Celebrities flock to Oaklawn Park; not only is the track and casino a draw for musical acts throughout the year, but famous horse owner Toby Keith, Billboard’s Country Music Artist of the Decade (2000-2009), is a regular at the track.
5. Hot Springs has a really fun nightlife scene:
From trivia nights at local craft beer hangouts to sophisticated cocktails at luxurious hotel bars, there’s something for everyone to do when the sun sets.
6. Soak it in:
Hot Springs, Ark. is home to Oaklawn Park, but it also has a stunning array of natural hot spring baths. Reserve a soak at one of the town’s famed Art Deco spas and relax.
7. Back to nature:
Oaklawn Park is nestled right on the edge of Hot Springs National Park, so you’ll definitely want to set aside some time on your Smarty Jones trip to take in the incredible nature of the area. From (literal) hot springs to the Ouachita Mountains, it’s well worth a hike to see the area.
8. Dress to impress:
Oaklawn Park has a history of fans with fantastic fashion sense. Break out your best spring attire and show it off for the Smarty Jones Stakes!
9. Take in some culture:
For the month of January, the Justus Fine Art Gallery will celebrate the New Year with art from a myriad of American artists. Set aside the time to take in the creative beauty over Smarty Jones weekend.
10. Get funky:
Maxine’s Live is a great venue for live music, but they also host a funky brunch that you shouldn’t miss. Come for the food and stay for the fun!