Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? Some of the best magic in our sport comes from the most unlikely places, where you thought change and innovation would not occur.
You have heard me go on about Keeneland, and how they have changed from an 8-race-a-day card with one daily double, to the innovator leading the pack. On that note, do you know the place that will hold the ONLY $1-million Derby prep?
The answer is 106 years old…. Oaklawn Park.
The gates swung open to allow the players more excitement than the previous year has brought. President Charles Cella made the gutsy move of doubling the purse in 2004. The 54-day meet begins, and the action should be non-stop. He has a great staff, and all the makings of a magic money making machine.
A $30 million dollar expansion, and the raising of the bar at the Oaklawn venue. This year they will be broadcast on NBC, and that will help drive the ratings leading the Derby in a big way. We need to introduce the game to as many new eyes as possible.
The Daily Racing Form reports that Corey Nakatani is bringing his tack to Hot Springs. He bought a house in Kentucky, and plans to ride the major Kentucky meets, and says there is a lot of action going on at Oaklawn. Hope springs eternal with the healing waters of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
This is what it takes to survive. When you see a track like Oaklawn, who is steeped in tradition, break the mold and strive for the new, we should all take a page from that book. Just take a look to the South, and you see the glory of Hialeah rising from the ashes once more. These are great models.
I have heard the stories of older gents who would make the drive and stay a few weeks at Oaklawn. They loved the game, and this is what they did… Just think, some people really have it tough. The old timers went there, and now a new player is being created with the instant racing machines, and slot parlors. They have changed the old ways and came back new. They are innovators, and they still have not lost the charm they had many moons ago.