Oaklawn Park officials said Wednesday they plan on admitting limited spectators inside the gates for their 2021 meet, keeping in line with an Arkansas Department of Health directive allowing the move.

Oaklawn Park-Limited Fans
Arkansas’ Oaklawn Park opens its 2021 season on Jan. 22. The track will allow a “limited” number of spectators inside for its 57 races, including four Kentucky Derby preps. (Image: Tom Ferry)

The 57-day Oaklawn meet begins Jan. 22 and runs through May 1. Last year, Oaklawn was one of only five tracks running through the opening months of the COVID-19 pandemic. It ended its season on May 2, the same day as the proposed Kentucky Derby before it moved to September.

“We’ve been working on plans covering numerous scenarios and we’re happy to announce we will be welcoming back race fans in 2021, albeit on a limited basis,” General Manager Wayne Smith said in a release. “We know that the fans are what make Oaklawn so special, but our main concern is for the safety and well-being of our guests and team members. We appreciate the support we have received from the Arkansas Department of Health in developing the plan.”

Oaklawn officials did not specify a numerical spectator limit.

That plan contains several provisions limiting access to various parts of Oaklawn Park. Grandstand entrance is limited to guests with a racing credential or reservation. No general admission tickets will be available at the beginning of the season.

Many of Oaklawn’s Health Requirements Sound Familiar

Restaurants will be open to the public, but reservations are required. The same goes for the simulcast area, which will be open Wednesday through Sunday. Box owners and Oaklawn Jockey Club members may enter with reservations.

Everyone entering Oaklawn will have their temperature taken. Anyone with a reading of 100 degrees or higher may not enter the premises. Social distancing guidelines will be enforced and smoking will be forbidden throughout Oaklawn and its casino.

Oaklawn’s Calendar Dotted with Derby Preps

The $150,000 Smarty Jones headlines Oaklawn’s opening weekend. That’s the first of four Kentucky Derby points races on Oaklawn’s calendar. It prefaces the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 15, the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes on March 13, and the April 10 Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.

Caddo River is expected to make his stakes and two-turn debut in the one-mile Smarty Jones. Despite not running since his 9-½-length romp in a Churchill Downs maiden race on Nov. 15, Caddo River is 25/1 on both Circa Sports and William Hill Nevada futures books.


  1. Mike, you can call 1-800-OAKLAWN for reservations. I’m not sure how they’re working regular day reservations, but that’s the main number. You can start there.

    Restaurant reservations may be made starting January 18 by calling 501-363-4710.

    Simulcast reservations may be made starting January 18 by calling 501-363-4320.

  2. James, give Oaklawn a call at 501-363-4320. That’s their simulcast information number.