Louis Cella Joins the TDN Writers' Room Podcast

Louis CellaCharles Barnes

Another Oaklawn meet is underway and with the Arkansas track offering the highest purse structure in the country during the winter months, expectations are that it will be another banner season in Hot Springs. To discuss the Oaklawn season, the TDN Writers' Room podcast presented by Keeneland called upon track president Louis Cella to explain why Oaklawn has become such a phenomenon. Cella was this week's Green Group Guest of the Week.

“It's because we don't charge $12 for a beer,” Cella said when asked how Oaklawn continues to draw such big crowds. “We just gave away six tons of corned beef, two sandwiches and a Coke for a dollar last Saturday. To put that in perspective, we had thunderstorms and rolling electric blackouts all day Saturday. Yet we had close to 15,000 people giving away six tons of corned beef because that's their expectation. That's what they want to do. It's all part of having fun. It's part of the excitement of what we offer. We continually focus on affordability and the $2 bettor and more importantly, family.”

Cella has made some changes since taking over as track president in 2017, including the building of a hotel on track grounds. Another is a longer meet. For this meet, Oaklawn will be open from Dec. 9 through May 6. Cella said the extended season has been a success.

“It is working,” he said. “More importantly, our horsemen seem to love it. It fills in a gap. Equally important is that the city of Hot Springs and our community love it.”

And when it comes to the question that always seems to come up whenever Oaklawn is involved…

“I get asked that all the time, when are you going to put in a turf course?” Cella said. “We're not going to put in a turf course. The time of year that we run, call it December to April to May, means we might have to start turf racing in April. It's just not conducive for us.”

Elsewhere on the podcast, which is also sponsored by Coolmore, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, XBTV and West Point Thoroughbreds, Zoe Cadman, Randy Moss and Bill Finley discussed the latest chapter of the Jason Servis story. Servis is facing four years in prison, which Finley said would be a surprisingly light sentence considering that Jorge Navarro got five years. Other subjects included the announcement by the Federal Trade Commission that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority cannot go ahead with plans to start its anti-doping and medication control (ADMC) program on Jan. 1 and the suspension handed down by the New York Gaming Commission to NYRA clocker Rich Gazer for changing the distance of a workout. Moss called Gazer's suspension “an absolute joke.”

In on-the-track news, the crew took a look back at the win by Faiza (Girvin) in the GI Starlet S. at Los Alamitos and looked ahead to this weekend's action, which includes the GII Los Alamitos Futurity and the Springboard Mile at Remington Park.

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