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Hot Springs ARK Historic Hotel Arlington and Racetrack that Incubates triple Crown Winners

Hot Springs Arkansas is only an hour away from the Capital City of Little Rock, but this historic town is decidedly distinct. The town is a National Park because of its thermal hot springs. Before the advent of modern medicine, the hot springs drew health seekers from around the world. Dozens of bathhouses lined the main street, most dating from the dawning decades of the 20th Century. By the advent of the Roaring 20's, gambling establishments were abundant, along with attendant upstairs brothels. You name the legendary mobster, such as Al Capone, Benny Siegel, Mayer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, and their associates loved to hang out in Hot Springs.

To accommodate the throngs of gamblers and health seekers, the grand Arlington Hotel opened its doors for business in 1924, and it remains today the largest hotel in the state of Arkansas.

Simultaneously, the town also served as America’s first spring training camp for professional baseball players, three quarters of a century before Arizona and Florida. It was here in Hot Springs where Babe Ruth hit the longest home run ball of his career, and not home-turf Camden Yard in Baltimore.

Another century-long Hot Springs draw remains professional horse racing and gaming. At one time there were two racetracks, but today Oaklawn, opened in 1905, remains, and thrives as a nursery for Triple Crown winners, and the track also touts some of the largest purses in America.

Join correspondent, Tom Wilmer for a visit with Benny Baker at the Arlington Hotel and then we’ll stop in at Oaklawn for a visit with Jennifer Hoyt, Media Relations Manager.

Tom Wilmer produces on-air content for Issues & Ideas airing over KCBX and is producer and host of the six-time Lowell Thomas award-winning NPR podcast Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer. Recorded live on-location across America and around the world, the podcasts feature the arts, culture, music, nature, history, science, wine & spirits, brewpubs, and the culinary arts--everything from baseball to exploring South Pacific atolls to interviewing the real Santa Claus in the Arctic.
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