Preparations underway for the Arkansas Derby, end of Oaklawn racing season

HOT SPRINGS (KATV) - The horse racingbig-wigs have been waiting all year for this - the Racing Festival of theSouth.{} Big names and big horses are ontheir way to Arkansas, all to compete in Saturday's big event - the ArkansasDerby.

Unfortunately with the Arkansas Derbyjust days away, that also means the end of the live racing season, but theDerby is Oaklawn's biggest event.

"Saturday is what we've been workingfor all meet long," said Jennifer Hoyt, media relations director forOaklawn.{} "It's what we start lookingforward to when we open in January."

The track is expecting as many as70,000 people to be at the track on Saturday.

"The horses that will compete here aregoing to go onto the Kentucky Derby which is the race that everybody in horseracing wants to win," said Hoyt.

Even though the big race is on Saturday,the Derby is actually the culmination of the Festival of the South, and that'sbeen going on since the previous Saturday.

"Friday we have a short field of five,"said Hoyt.{} "But out of those fivefillies and mares competing in our Apple Blossom, there's a good possibilitythat one of them will go on to be the champion filly and mare in the wholeentire country come the end of the year."

When it comes to the end of the yearof Oaklawn racing in 2014, Hoyt says the track won't know what the bottom linewill be when it comes to bets until the Derby is over, but weather certainlywasn't in the track's favor this year - the track closed four days shut downfor several half days because of the elements.

"We had a lot of rain, we had a lot ofcold temperatures," said Hoyt.{} "It was avery challenging meet from that standpoint."

But Hoyt said she doesn't thinkOaklawn will see the red because of increased interest from outside the track'sphysical walls.

"Despite the weather it was a reallysolid meet year for us, thanks to having a lot of increases of people takingour signal across the country and thanks to Oaklawn Anywhere," commented Hoyt.

Oaklawn introduced Oaklawn Anywhere, the website and appthat allows anyone in Arkansas to place a bet on a race at the Hot Springstrack without actually being there, at the beginning of the 2014 season.