Neutral Ground: Looks at Hot Springs' Former Dual Roles as Spa City and Sin City

by Tre Baker  on Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2012 7:00 am  

Oaklawn Jockey Club in Midtown Hot Springs is a major tourism destination offering live thoroughbred racing and electronic gaming. (Photo by Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism)

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Good guys and bad guys. Bible thumpers and gangsters. Yankees and Southerners. And perhaps the most polarized groups of all, winners and losers.'s Dave Hill returns to his hometown of Hot Springs and brings his readers up on the war stories of Hot Springs' past, using a murder in his family's history as the centerpiece of a tale where worlds collide regularly in one place, Oaklawn Racing & Gaming.

A couple of weeks after their chat on the backstretch, Don called my dad with the horse. My dad had to act fast. He set off to the pawn shop to unload some of Eric's jewelry and a couple of his own hunting rifles. He went to the bank and pulled out everything he could. He told nobody. This was crucial. The information my dad possessed was extremely valuable. He didn't need Don to stress the point; he had been around long enough to know -- if the word got out, the odds on this horse would take a pounding, and nobody would make any money.

Hot Springs still lives between two parallel worlds. While C-list celebrities like the dude from Animal House parade down Bridge Street on St. Patrick's Day, bigger names like Bob Baffert and even Bill Parcells quietly lurk inside Oaklawn's Jockey Club, watching the dust kick up underneath the heels of their investments.

These days, just like yesteryear, it doesn't really matter who you are or where you're from -- just which number you've got printed upon your ticket.



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