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Changes and hype surrounding Oaklawn 2016 season | News

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Changes and hype surrounding Oaklawn 2016 season

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) -- After last year's cancelations from ice storms, Oaklawn is hoping for a smoother, warmer and bigger start to this season.

Presale tickets for this year's Arkansas Derby are nearly sold out, but more tickets will be released on Derby Day. 

Oaklawn plans to play off this fresh hype and offer some new things opening weekend. "Something this massive, he weighs 1,286 pounds and can run about 40 something miles per hour. He's that strong, but he's this cool," said Ron Moquett, a trainer, who has several horses at Oaklawn, including 'Right To Vote,' "He's usually popular in an election year."

Moquett is excited for this season, and a chance for his horses to run well.

"We all believe we have a derby horse, so fans get to come out and grab ahold of a horse and follow it all the way through," said Moquett.

Jennifer Hoyt is ready for a better start to this season than last year, when frigid temperatures caused opening weekend to be postponed

"We know there's going to be snow and sleet and rain, we just hope that it's not as much as we had last year," said Hoyt, "Fingers crossed, the weather is looking good."

For the first time this year on opening day the first race will start at 12:30 p.m., but for the rest of the season it will begin at 1 p.m. as usual. 

"Trying to make sure we don't get into the darkness of the evening," said Hoyt.

Oaklawn is thanking a pre-season derby ticket sellout to American Pharoah's wins at Oaklawn before the Kentucky Derby.

"He won our Rebel Stakes and our Arkansas Derby. Then, of course, he went on to be the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown," said Hoyt.

There's also a new barn filled up in the training area, to meet the high demand.

"We had over 2,800 horses apply for stalls this year, we only have room for 1,550," said Hoyt.

Space is already cleared for even more barns to be built, with trainers and horses anxious to find a home at Oaklawn.

"They're bred to do this, they love to run, and once you see their competitive nature you get infected," said Moquett. Oaklawn is giving away American Pharoah bobble heads on opening day to attendees.

The admission is also free for the second year in a row on opening day. There will also be an American Pharoah bobble horse giveaway on Monday, Jan. 18. The fun starts next Friday, Jan. 15., and gates open at 11 a.m.