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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Oaklawn still one of the best after changes

by Wally Hall | July 8, 2021 at 2:21 a.m.

To improve, one generally has to make changes, which is exactly what Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort did when it threw out its outdated racing schedule.

When it was first announced racing would begin on Dec. 3 of this year and the 66 racing days would end May 7, a friend, who is a bit of a cynic, grumbled that the track would lose dates because of weather.

Exactly how that affects my friend is unknown since he doesn't work at Oaklawn.

Oaklawn is the only one taking any risks in these updates.

It is a win-win for the horsemen, jockeys and fans.

The track added four stakes races in December, cleverly named Advent, Mistletoe, Poinsettia and Tinsel.

The first three have a purse of $150,000; 200,000 for the Tinsel.

That is $650,000 out of Oaklawn's pocket.

Plus, they upped the ante on the Grade I Arkansas Derby to $1.25 million.

All of that is good for racing, and to be totally frank, it's good for the economy in Arkansas, especially for Hot Springs.

Of course there are upsides for Oaklawn: More weekends, no more Thursdays when only a handful of racing patrons showed up.

Mostly, though, it shows the continued support of thoroughbred racing.

While tracks all over the country are cutting expenses and corners, Oaklawn has made a move that will make it an industry champion.

Stall space could become very hard to come by with the addition of 2-year-old races.

Trainers have been migrating to Oaklawn because of increased purses for more than a decade, and now they can bring their stable in December and not have to move again for more than five months.

Now there will be training AND paydays for owners, trainers, jockeys, grooms and everyone else involved in racing.

The schedule change is just one more way Oaklawn is looking out for racing.

Louis Cella, Oaklawn's president, wouldn't have asked for such a drastic change in dates without a lot of information.

It is just 149 days until the first race of the next racing season.

* * *

Tuesday night's 118-105 win by Phoenix over Milwaukee is game one of the NBA Championship Finals may not have bode well for former Arkansas Razorback Bobby Portis.

Portis is a better defensive player than most of the Bucks big men, and he can shoot and rebound, but Brook Lopez, who struggles on defense, gets most of the playing time.

Portis played only 14 minutes Tuesday night but had 3 rebounds and 5 points.

Bucks fans have questioned Portis' lack of playing time all season.

Also, when the Bucks made a run and got it close in the fourth quarter it was with a smaller lineup.

It appeared the Suns ran the same play over and over and the Bucks never figured that out.

If the Bucks are going to have any chance, they have to find a way to slow down Chris Paul who had 32 points and nine assists.

* * *

With the recent spike of covid-19 cases in the world Olympic officials are becoming increasingly nervous.

The Southeastern Conference is also concerned, sending emails this week to the media who have been approved to attend the annual football days that seating will be limited.

They are even thinking about not allowing free access to all press conferences, but instead media would be assigned to specific ones, other than a school they cover.

This means about 34% of those attending, at a minimum, will not be there to hear Alabama's Nick Saban thank us for coming and for our continued coverage of the SEC.

He says it every year and never really sounds like he means it.

Print Headline: Oaklawn still one of the best after changes

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