Racing begins Friday at Oaklawn Park.

  • Racing begins Friday at Oaklawn Park.

1 p.m. Oaklawn. $2.50-$4.50.

There is no better place for people-watching in this fine state than Oaklawn. In a single afternoon, you can see just about every demographic Arkansas has to offer.

You’ve got your horse owners and your debauched heiresses and your wealthy divorcees in their big hats. You’ve got your dudes in leather jackets and Kansas City Chiefs sweatpants. You’ve got your toupee- and sunglasses-inside-wearers peeling hundos off a fat stack and feeding them into the betting machines. You’ve got your pickup-driving good-old-boy contingent, naturally. You’ve got your guys who are obviously pimps. You’ve got your clusters of hungover frat bros and sorority girls nursing Miller Lites. You’ve got your busloads of senior citizens from outlying areas. You’ve got your snowbird retirees. And then, of course, you’ve got hoards of just plain, good old-fashioned Arkansas folks.

Whether you’re a race-form-reading pro who’s accustomed to walking out with a heavier wallet than the one you came in with, or a novice who’ll be lucky just to lose $20, it’s always a good time. Plus, it just wouldn’t feel like late winter/early spring in Arkansas without at least one trip down to Oaklawn.

On opening day, the track has a $75,000 Fifth Season Stakes, and on Saturday, you can get 50-cent corned beef sandwiches.