Oaklawn kicks off 2014 meet

Live racing returns to Hot Springs, Arkansas, with the opening of Oaklawn's 2014 live meet Friday and greeting fans will be some of the most competitive racing in the country, especially in the three-year-old ranks. Overall, the 57-day meet will offer more than $20 million in purses and 31 stakes, highlighted by the 78th running of the $1 million Arkansas Derby April 12.

Oaklawn's three-year-old stakes program is one of the most successful in the nation and last year, it produced likely champion three-year-old Will Take Charge and Oxbow, whose victory in the Preakness was the 10th Triple Crown race won by an Oaklawn-raced horse in 10 years. The four-race program offers 289 points based on the qualifying method for the Kentucky Derby and these race days also help anchor some of Oaklawn's most popular promotions.

The series starts January 20 with a special holiday card that features the $150,000 Smarty Jones. It continues February 17 with a President's Day card that includes the $300,000 Southwest.

Next to Arkansas Derby Day, the most anticipated day during the Oaklawn meet is Rebel Stakes Day, March 15. In addition to this $600,000 race for aspiring sophomores, the card now includes the $200,000 Razorback Handicap and $200,000 Azeri, and one lucky fan will walk away with a new boat and truck, courtesy of Bradford Marine.

The meet will end with the Racing Festival of the South, which starts April 5 with the $400,000 Fantasy and concludes April12 with the Arkansas Derby and three other stakes.

Post times will be 1:30 p.m. on weekdays and Sundays and 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Some exceptions are Opening Day, January 10; Super Bowl Sunday, February 2; and the two holiday Mondays, January 20 and February 17, when first post is 1 p.m.

Friday's feature is the $100,000 Dixie Belle, a six-furlong dash for three-year-old fillies. Among the likely favorites is More Than Beauty, an allowance winner at Churchill Downs last September for trainer Cecil Borel. The stakes-placed filly is a daughter of Brown Eyed Beauty, who captured the 2003 Spring Fever at Oaklawn.

Also expected to attract support is Street Story, a Churchill maiden winner who ran second in the December 21 Letellier Memorial at Fair Grounds.

For more Oaklawn Park horse racing information click here.