Oaklawn Park report

A large field of 13 horses parade in front of a packed grandstand before running in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.

— Numbers increase for track

HOT SPRINGS - Oaklawn Park’s 49-day live meeting ended Saturday with on-track gains in attendance and mutuel handle, based on figures kept by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Saturday’s season-high crowd of 62,364 boosted average daily on-track attendance to 11,649, based on figures released each race day by the track.

That represents a 0.6 percent increase over last year.

Average daily on-track handle was $825,343, 1.1 percent higher than 2010.

General Manager Eric Jackson said he was pleased with the numbers, especially since Oaklawn endured a record eight weather-related cancellations in January and February.

At one point, Oaklawn had raced 10 days and lost eight to the harsh winter weather.

“We came out of that and had a pretty good meet and some excellent racing,” Jackson said. “I think we’re pretty pleased.”

Oaklawn will reopen Wednesday for simulcasting.

The track is scheduled to race 56 live dates in 2012 (Jan. 13-April 14). Reserved seats for next year’s live meeting go on sale Nov. 21.

The champions

Cliff Berry, D. Wayne Lukas and Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc.

were crowned Oaklawn’s champion jockey, trainer and owner, respectively, for the 49-day live meeting that ended Saturday.

Clearly, the biggest story was Lukas, 75, who is believed to be the oldest person to win an Oaklawn training title.

Lukas, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1999, finished with 27 victories from 126 starters.

Allen Milligan, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2009, was second with 24 victories.

Lukas clinched the title when Key Largo, trained by Milligan, was scratched from Saturday’s seventh race.

Lukas was also Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1987 with 35 victories. The 24-year gap between titles is an Oaklawn record.

It was the first training title for Lukas since the Turfway Park fall meeting in 2005.

Lukas led Milligan 24-23 entering the final four days of the meet.

Lukas got some muchneeded breathing room when he saddled two winners Wednesday - Delong Road and TidalPool in the $100,000 Redbud Stakes for older fillies and mares.

Lukas had originally planned to run Delong Road in Thursday’s $200,000 Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, but opted for Wednesday’s softer spot, a third-level allowance race.

Tidal Pool, owned by Little Rock-based Westrock Stables LLC (Scott and Joe Ford), went wire-to-wire to win the inaugural Redbud.

“He’s had a great year,” Scott Ford said following the Redbud. “We were trying tofind something else that we could run to help him. He was like, ‘I don’t care about that.’ We were like, ‘No, no, we’ll run one down at a cheap price, a good horse in a claiming race.’ We wanted to see him win it.”

Lukas won the title despite starting 95 fewer horses than Milligan.

Berry ended Terry Thompson’s two-year reign as leading rider with 62 victories. Thompson was second with 44 victories.

It was the first Oaklawn riding title for Berry, 48, who finished fourth behind Thompson in last year’s standings.

Riding regularly for Milligan, Mac Robertson and Bret Calhoun, Berry also led all riders in purse earnings ($1,600,540).

Thompson was trying to become the first jockey to win three consecutive Oaklawn riding titles since Pat Day won a record 12 in a row (1983-1994).

As expected, Chicago-based Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc.

(Richard and Karen Papiese) was the meet’s leading owners.

Midwest won its first Oaklawn title with 20 victories. Randy Patterson and Maggi Moss tied for second with nine victories.

Midwest, which leans heavily on claimers, led the country in victories last year with 310.

Midwest used trainers Jamie Ness and Roger Brueggemann at the meeting.

Day 49 at a glance ATTENDANCE 62,364 ON-TRACK HANDLE $3,342,751 OFF-TRACK HANDLE $8,071,753 TOTAL HANDLE $11,414,504

Sports, Pages 38 on 04/17/2011