HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — This Friday the bugle will sound and the gates will open in Hot Springs.
For over a century horse racing has had a home at Oaklawn Park. It all dates back to the late 19th century where Oaklawn wasn’t the only racetrack.
According to Oaklawn’s records there was a track named Sportsman’s Park in the late 1890s, Essex Park opened on Malvern Road in 1904, and Little Rock had a race meet as well. However, by 1920 Oaklawn was the only track left.
The name Oaklawn came from the rural community in which the track would be built, which in turn took its name from what Peter LaPatourel, an early settler to the area, called his home around which a large stand of ancient oaks stood.
Chicago architect Zachary Taylor Davis was hired to design Oaklawn’s glass-enclosed, heated grandstand – among the first of it’s kind in the country in 1904. The grandstand could reportedly seat 1,500.
Davis also designed Wrigley Field, the longtime home of the Chicago Cubs, a decade later.
According to an advertisement in the Sentinel-Record, the Oaklawn Jockey Club’s inaugural meeting ran February 13th through March 18th, 1905, with six races carded daily.
This year’s season opens on Friday. Gates open at 11 AM.