Louis Cella

Arkansas Derby Boosted to $1.25M, Date Changed for '22

The purse for the 2022 GI Arkansas Derby will be increased to $1.25 million--up from $1 million in 2021--and the race will be contested Saturday, Apr. 2, Oaklawn Park announced Tuesday. The date shift is a departure from the traditional three weeks before the Kentucky Derby and the increased purse makes the race the richest event among Derby preps. In 2022, Oaklawn will offer a record 36 stakes worth $12.3 million. In addition to the Arkansas Derby, three stakes will carry million dollar purses and 15 other stakes will offer...

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Oaklawn To Add December Dates

For the first time in its 117-year history, Oaklawn Park will add December dates to its racing calendar and will host 66 days of live racing beginning Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 through Sunday, May 8, 2022. The season will be conducted on a largely Friday-through-Sunday schedule with some exceptions. The track will be dark over the Christmas holiday Dec. 24-26 and there will be no racing on Easter Sunday, Apr. 17. As is their custom, Oaklawn will host a holiday program on Presidents' Day, Monday, Feb. 21. "For many years,...

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Oaklawn Raises Purses 15%, Top Allowances Now Worth $110K

Over the final eight weeks of its 2021 season, Oaklawn will boost purses by 15%, a total of $2.5 million, into overnight races, including increasing top allowance races to $110,000. The across the board increase also takes maiden special weights to $93,000 and raises the bottom purse to $27,000, and represents the largest in-season purse hike in the track's history. "It's been an interesting year to say the least, but it is very gratifying to announce this purse increase nearly a year after shutting the race meet and casino down...

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Louis Cella Named 2020 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Sportsman of the Year

Louis Cella, the owner and president of Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, has been honored as the 2020 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Sportsman of the Year for his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. When most of the rest of the country--including live sports--shut down in March, he was one of a handful of racetrack principals who were able to continue live racing and do it safely. "In racing, we have an obligation," Cella told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "It's not like a retail store. You send your employees home and good luck and let's...

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Mark Casse On Clenbuterol Changes

Editor's Note: In Monday's TDN, Bill Finley made reference to Mark Casse's comments on Clenbuterol in a Mar. 2 Op/Ed in the TDN. Casse sent us this note in response. Much has changed since my Mar. 2 Op/Ed with regards to Clenbuterol. Canada made big changes to their Clenbuterol policy and, as a result, we have seen almost none of the nonsensical form reversals that had haunted us in the past at Woodbine in 2020. I was elated to see the Clenbuterol changes for 2021 in the Mid-Atlantic region. Also,...

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Oaklawn Releases New Proposed Integrity Initiatives for '21

Working in partnership with the Arkansas Racing Commission and the Arkansas HBPA (Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association), Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort has announced, subject to legislative approval, a series of significant proposed safety and integrity enhancements planned for the 2021 racing season. Key provisions include the prohibition of Clenbuterol within 60 days of a race, reduction in the maximum amount of Lasix without specific approval, and the mandatory use of safety whips in races. "We began working on these measures last spring," said Oaklawn President Louis Cella. "We hosted a...

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Oaklawn Planning 57-Day Meet with Four $1-Million Stakes Races in 2021

Pending approval from the Arkansas Racing Commission, Oaklawn plans to conduct its regular 57-day meet highlighted by four $1-million stakes races--$1-million GII Rebel S., $1-million GI Arkansas Derby, $1-million GII Oaklawn H. and $1-million GI Apple Blossom H.--and the richest purse structure in its 117-year history. The 2021 season, which will be accentuated by the opening of a multi-purpose event center and a luxury 200-room hotel overlooking the track, is scheduled to run Friday, Jan. 22--Saturday, May 1. In addition, 21 stakes will have their purses raised by at least...

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Oaklawn Owner Louis Cella Joins TDN Writers' Room

On this week's episode of the TDN Writers' Room podcast presented by Keeneland, the writers were joined by Oaklawn Park owner and president Louis Cella to discuss the challenges and logistics of running a race meet in the coronavirus era. Oaklawn, along with Gulfstream and Tampa, have led the way for major tracks continuing operations uninterrupted through the pandemic, and Cella, as the Green Group Guest of the Week, talked about the advice they can impart as other ones start to reopen. "Some of the details that we've shared with other tracks:...

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Oaklawn Casino Set to Resume Limited Operations May 18

The Oaklawn Park casino has been given the green light by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to resume operations May 18. During his press briefing May 7, Hutchinson announced that the state's three casinos can reopen, but only at one-third capacity and that stringent social distancing requirements will be in place. Oaklawn's casino has been closed since Mar. 16 and the shutdown had started to affect purses. Under the worst-case scenario, the casino would be closed for an extended period of time and purses would have to be reduced at the...

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Arkansas Derby Splits; Both Divisions to Carry Full KY Derby Points

Having attracted 22 entries Sunday for next Saturday's GI Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park has split the race for sophomores into two divisions for the first time ever. Each race will carry a $500,000 purse--the Arkansas Derby was originally scheduled to be held Apr. 11 and worth $750,000. "Because of our national crisis, we and the entire world of sports are in uncharted waters requiring unprecedented actions," said Oaklawn President Louis Cella. "We're trying to make the best of a very, very difficult situation. On the one hand, it is the...

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Oaklawn Meet Will Not Be Extended

Oaklawn President Louis Cella has confirmed that the Oaklawn meet will end as scheduled May 2. Just one of five tracks still operating in the U.S., Oaklawn's handle numbers have soared during the coronavirus outbreak, but Cella, in an email to the TDN, pointed to other reasons why the meet will be ending. "First, we have no purse money left," he wrote. "Second, it takes all summer for us to pick up, re-test, re-mix and re-place our entire track cushion, while inspecting the base. We do this annually and it...

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This Side Up: Hope Springs Eternal With Tom's d'Etat

Hot Springs has long been a sanctuary when people need to avoid New York. The mobster Owney Madden settled there in 1935; the following year, its casinos and obliging law enforcement made it an obvious place for Lucky Luciano to lie low. A relative concept, lying low: Luciano was swanking around the Hotel Arlington with his showgirl Gay Orlova, a Russian refugee described by Broadway impresario Earl Carroll as "the sexiest gal who ever worked for me." Luciano was dressed up for the races on Apr. 1 when he had...

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