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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Fun party expected for Saturday at Oaklawn

Since 2004, when Smarty Jones won the Arkansas Derby and went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the biggest race in the Natural State has unofficially become known as the Smarty Party.

This Saturday may officially be the biggest Smarty Party ever.

With 13 races and more than $2.2 million in purses and a forecast of partly cloudy and temperatures in the mid 70s, a hearty crowd is expected at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs.

The feature race, the Arkansas Derby, should have a field of nine well-bred 3-year-old colts who are looking to earn enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

It is the 12th race and is scheduled to go off at 6:35 p.m.

As has become the tradition since 2004, the winner of the Arkansas Derby will be a contender in the Run For The Roses.

The Arkansas Derby is considered one of the major qualifiers for the first Saturday in May race.

The field has two shippers, one from Santa Anita but not trained by Bob Baffert, who doesn't have a horse in the Arkansas Derby for the first time in many years, although he is allowed to race at Oaklawn and not Churchill Downs.

The sentimental favorite might be Un Ojo, who won Oaklawn's Rebel Stakes at 75-1 odds, and by all reports is training well going into this race.

He won't be the betting favorite. Another local favorite could be Willie Horton's Ben Diesel, who had trouble in the Rebel and was trapped behind the field. Horton has become a big name in racing since his horse Will Take Charge won the Travers and lost the Breeder's Cup Classic by a nose.

Will Take Charge stands stud on Horton's farm and sired Ben Diesel.

Another to note was Barber Road, who was a fast closing third in the Rebel.

Most likely the betting favorite will be Secret Oath, a filly who won the Martha Washington and Honeybee Stakes. She has also won a stakes race making her 3-3 at Oaklawn and 4-6 for her career including a maiden win at Churchill Downs.

She earned a speed rating of 92 in the Honeybee, the fastest in the field.

If she's not the favorite, it might be Doppelganger, bred by Into Mischief at the successful WinStar Farm.

Doppelganger ran second in the San Felipe at Santa Anita.

Watch out for We The People, who might be a horse for the course, having won both his races at Oaklawn both by at least five lengths. He's also from WinStar Farm and is an improving colt.

Look for him and Cyberknife to vie for the lead and if they go out too fast, any of the closers have a chance.

The sure bet of the day will be the family atmosphere in the infield, which should be open.

Oaklawn has been racing since December and will continue until May 7, when the feature race will be the Arkansas Breeders' Championship, whose winner earns an automatic spot in the Preakness.

First post Saturday is 12:10 p.m. and the final post 7:10 p.m., a full day of thoroughbred racing and fun.

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The Arkansas Softball Hall of Fame has announced its class of latest inductees.

They are: Moman Bates Jr., Jeff Brown, Carl Causin, Randy Rithian, Brian Glass, Charlie Terral, Mike Wilkerson, Wendi Reed, Karen Johnson, Debra Dilbeck, Candy Ireland, Angela Jones, Cheryl Carpenter, Myka Bono Sample and Coach Melvin Collins.

The induction will be May 26 at Dickey Stephens Field in North Little Rock.

The pavilion has been reserved for the night, and the price of the banquet includes a ticket to the Arkansas Travelers' game that night.

To buy tickets or get more information, go to

This will be the 23rd class.