Ever since Duelist won the first race in Oaklawn history 105 years ago, opening weekend at Arkansas's horse racing mecca has been an institution not only for the state, but for horse-racing fans at large. Last year, more than 20,000 voices were lost hollering on opening day and almost four tons of Oaklawn's famous 50-cent corned beef sandwiches were devoured on Saturday alone. This season, the track offers 32 stakes races and $4.6 million in purses.
Of course, that's just the tip of the betting season. And I don't really know what it means. Get any deeper and we start talking about maiden allowances and breakages and quinellas and other words that are fun to look at but might as well be Greek to me. And besides, this isn't Today's Racing Digest. An expert I'm not, but I can assure you that no matter how plum-licking little you know about the ins and outs of the sport, it's worth the trek just to get lost in the circus.
For all you fellow know-nothings, here's a tip: The more beer you drink, the prettier the horses get. And that's good enough for me.
The Oaklawn gates open again on Sunday and Monday, Jan. 15 and 17, both at 1 p.m.