Preparations underway for the Arkansas Derby, end of Oaklawn rac - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Preparations underway for the Arkansas Derby, end of Oaklawn racing season

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HOT SPRINGS (KATV) - The horse racing big-wigs have been waiting all year for this – the Racing Festival of the South.  Big names and big horses are on their way to Arkansas, all to compete in Saturday's big event – the Arkansas Derby.

Unfortunately with the Arkansas Derby just days away, that also means the end of the live racing season, but the Derby is Oaklawn's biggest event.

"Saturday is what we've been working for all meet long," said Jennifer Hoyt, media relations director for Oaklawn.  "It's what we start looking forward to when we open in January."

The track is expecting as many as 70,000 people to be at the track on Saturday.

"The horses that will compete here are going to go onto the Kentucky Derby which is the race that everybody in horse racing wants to win," said Hoyt.

Even though the big race is on Saturday, the Derby is actually the culmination of the Festival of the South, and that's been going on since the previous Saturday.

"Friday we have a short field of five," said Hoyt.  "But out of those five fillies and mares competing in our Apple Blossom, there's a good possibility that one of them will go on to be the champion filly and mare in the whole entire country come the end of the year."

When it comes to the end of the year of Oaklawn racing in 2014, Hoyt says the track won't know what the bottom line will be when it comes to bets until the Derby is over, but weather certainly wasn't in the track's favor this year – the track closed four days shut down for several half days because of the elements.

"We had a lot of rain, we had a lot of cold temperatures," said Hoyt.  "It was a very challenging meet from that standpoint."

But Hoyt said she doesn't think Oaklawn will see the red because of increased interest from outside the track's physical walls.

"Despite the weather it was a really solid meet year for us, thanks to having a lot of increases of people taking our signal across the country and thanks to Oaklawn Anywhere," commented Hoyt.

Oaklawn introduced Oaklawn Anywhere, the website and app that allows anyone in Arkansas to place a bet on a race at the Hot Springs track without actually being there, at the beginning of the 2014 season.