Charles Cella, longtime president and chairman of the Oaklawn Jockey Club and leading figure in American Thoroughbred racing, has died of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 81.
According to a news release from Oaklawn Racing & Gaming, Cella died at his St. Louis home surrounded by family.
Cella became president of Oaklawn in 1968 and was instrumental in developing it into one of the largest racing centers in the country.
In addition to Oaklawn, Cella was president of Southwestern Enterprises, Inc. and Southern Real Estate and Financing Company. According to the release, Cella also owned and raced several notable thoroughbreds, including the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Turf champion, Northern Spur.
“At this time of great sadness for our family, we find comfort in knowing that one of the great joys in his life was seeing Oaklawn develop into a national treasure with such a significant economic impact on Arkansas,” the Cella family said in a statement. “In addition to the holidays with his family, his favorite time of year was always the Oaklawn racing season with fans, horsemen and staff.”