The track officials of Oaklawn Park has announced that winning horses will be returning to a new winner’s circle near the grandstand, which marks the first time this will be happening in 115 years. The announcement was made in Oaklawn’s June newsletter. Winners of stakes races will continue to go to the infield’s winner’s circle.
According to the park’s media relations manager Jennifer Hoyt, the project will involve the digging up of a portion in the north apron of the grandstand. The winner’s circle will be for everyday use while the current winner’s circle in the infield will still serve as a gathering place for larger stakes races.
Additionally, Hoyt said that the winner’s circle will “allow the fans a chance to get closer to the winners after each race and groups can now enjoy the excitement of going to the winner’s circle without having to walk through mud on rainy days.”
Oaklawn has built five new barns on the backstretch in the last three years and three new barns will open by 2019. Four barns have been torn down to make room for this construction, which will improve the barn area while also adding parking for horsemen and guests. A total of 39 barns will be available by the start of the 2019 live meet.
“Anytime you can tell horsemen that you are improving the barn and making changes for their benefit, it helps in the recruiting efforts,” she said. “Our purses and the commitment to racing that we have shown year after year are why more and more horsemen are looking at Oaklawn.”
Additional projects include improvements to the jockey’s room, exterior painting on the front and back of the building, updates to the Carousel Restaurant and the installation of new air conditioning units in the grandstand. Speaking about all the projects, Hoyt said that “all the improvements have been made with the fan in mind.”
Hoyt added that the projects will have to be completed before horses arrive later this year when the track officially opens for training.
“Before horses arrive, we’ll have to have it all finished. With the new race dates, the barn area will actually open a week later than usual, but the track opens the last week of November so it will be done before then,” she said.
Speaking of the very tight schedule for construction, Hoyt stated that there will be a few finishing touches as they only have April to November to finish construction.
The 115th live race meet will begin Jan. 25 and end on May 5, which will coincide with the 2019 Kentucky Derby and trading inclement weather early on with warmer spring race days.
Fans should be watching for announcements in the coming weeks according to Hoyt regarding the 2019 stakes schedule. She added that Oaklawn will “be able to share information about our recruiting efforts to bring in even more new trainers and jockeys” as fall approaches.