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A Visitor's Guide to the Arkansas Derby

Horse racing is a big deal in Hot Springs. Horse racing on the first weekend in April is a really big deal! The Arkansas Derby is the third and final leg of Kentucky Derby prep races at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. The winner of the race earns enough points to enter the Kentucky Derby. Oh, and there's a bit of money given away as well. The purse (split between all the horses in the race) is $1 million, and the winning horse receives 60%. The 2020 Arkansas Derby will run on Saturday, April 11, and if you want to be a part of this big deal, here are some insider tips:

  1. Make your Hot Springs, AR, lodging reservations soon. Our rooms are quickly filling up, and we don't want you to miss out! For the best rates, access to all our available rooms, and exclusive benefits, be sure to book direct.
  2. Arrive early. Post time for the first race on Saturday is 1p.m. (gates open at 11 a.m.) If you choose to sit in the indoor grandstands, you'll want to get there early for a good seat - however, most people tend to move around during the day. Reserved seating can be purchased in advance for $4.50 by calling Oaklawn. Box seating, if available, can be purchased when the gates open that day.
  3. Admission is free. Parking in any of Oaklawn's lots is $2, but surrounding private lots charge quite a bit more (another reason to arrive early). You can purchase a program at the main entrance for about $5. In it will be information on each race, the horses entered, and general track information.
  4. What to bring: It's Derby Day, so bring your fanciest hats! While not required, it does add even more fun to the day - and makes for great people-watching! You will probably do a lot of walking (on pavement and grass), so we recommend wearing comfortable shoes - although fashion often overrules our opinion. Weather permitting, the infield will be open and you are invited to bring lawn chairs and blankets. Don't forget to bring along some sunscreen as well.
  5. Enjoy the infield: "There is nowhere in America more beautiful for great racing than Arkansas in the spring,” says Oaklawn President Louis Cella. The azaleas will be blooming, the weather will be warm, and Oaklawn's infield is like a park. There will be a craft beer garden, live music, food trucks, and even a hat contest!

Oaklawn is one of the premiere thoroughbred racetracks in the country, and has been racing since 1904. They race every Thursday through Sunday through the first weekend in May. Come stay with us, enjoy a weekend full of racing, and see for yourself what a "big deal" it is!