HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) -- There's something in the air in Hot Springs this week. We are just three nights away from Derby Day at Oaklawn.
CEO of the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, Jim Fram, called this weekend Arkansas' Super Bowl. He even compared it to Arkansas vs. Texas, which any Arkansan and SEC fan knows is a pretty big deal. This closing weekend at Oaklawn Racing will be an even bigger deal.
“I’m looking forward to being out here with about 70,000 of my friends watching the Arkansas Derby,” said Fram.
"It’s the final day of the racing season, Arkansas Derby Day. We've been running it on the final day since 1936,” Davide Longinotti said.
Longinotti is the Director of Racing at Oaklawn. There’s 81 years of history and excitement built into this weekend.
"One of the phrases I like to use is a lot of other race tracks you go to, the season winds down. Not at Oaklawn. The season winds up,” bragged Longinotti.
The fun starts Friday.
“It brings about $650,000,000 into our community. The Arkansas Derby this Saturday is our Super Bowl,” said Fram.
Multiply that seven times and the economic contribution is an unmatched value of city revenue.
"Saturday is our Super Bowl day. Friday is like our NFC, AFC champion game,” added Longinotti. "Friday and Saturday we got Ladies Day with the 3 year old Fillies in the Fantasy Stakes. The older Fillies and Mares, Apple Blossoms and Handicaps in the Grade 1 Race,” he said.
Oaklwan takes pride in building towards what they call a crescendo at the end of the season.
"And then on Saturday we come back with the three year old Colts and Geldings, the older horses and the Oaklawn Handicapped in the Arkansas Derby,” he said.
Tourism is the number one industry in Hot Springs.
“It will be difficult to find a hotel reservation and difficult to find a restaurant seat on this weekend every year,” said Fram.
If you are looking to win big this weekend remember, no one loses when you're having fun.
“Last two days of the racing season nearly $5,000,000 in purses will be given away,” Longinotti said.
By the end of the day on Saturday, a total of 525 races of all levels will have happened since mid-January.
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