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Longtime horse racing figure Charles J. Cella dies at 81

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Charles J. Cella, who helped turn Oaklawn Park into a major racing destination in the South as a third-generation president of the Arkansas track and a thoroughbred owner himself, has died. He was 81.

He died of complications from Parkinson’s disease on Wednesday at his home in St. Louis, his sons John and Louis Cella told Oaklawn Racing & Gaming.

Cella took over as president of Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs in 1968 upon the death of his father, John G. Cella. The younger Cella led the track to even greater success through such innovations as full-card interstate simulcasting and the Racing Festival of the South. In 2005, the Cella family and Oaklawn Park received the Eclipse Award of Merit for their contributions to U.S. racing.

Gronkowski preparing for U.S. debut in Belmont Stakes

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NEW YORK — Gronkowski has completed his first official workout since arriving in the United States ahead of his expected start in the Belmont Stakes.

The colt breezed four furlongs in 47.99 seconds at Belmont Park on Saturday for Chad Brown, who has taken over training duties from Europe-based Jeremy Noseda.

Gronkowski has been in the U.S. a couple of weeks. The colt, named for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, has four wins in six starts in Britain. The human Gronkowski has purchased an interest in the colt that missed the Kentucky Derby because of a slight infection.

Gronkowski is being pointed toward the June 9 Belmont, where Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify will try to become horse racing’s 13th Triple Crown winner.

Brown says the colt came to him in outstanding condition and shows the signs of being a very good racehorse.

Audible won’t race in Belmont Stakes

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NEW YORK — Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify won’t have to further contend with Audible in pursuit of the colt’s bid for the Triple Crown.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Friday that Audible will be pointed toward a summer campaign, with the $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 28 or the $1 million Haskel Invitational on July 29 being the top options for his next start.

Florida. Derby winner Audible finished third in the Kentucky Derby. Both Justify and Audible are co-owned by WinStar Farm and there had been much speculation whether the owners would pit them against each other when Justify tries to complete a Triple Crown sweep in the Belmont on June 9.

Elliott Walden, WinStar president and CEO, was at Belmont Park on Friday to see Audible and discussed the situation with Pletcher.

The trainer says Audible isn’t doing as well as he was leading into the May 5 Derby and he doesn’t think the colt is where he needs to be to win the 1 +-mile Belmont.

However, Noble Indy is a possibility to run in the Belmont. He finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby and is also co-owned by WinStar. Pletcher said Noble Indy put himself into the Belmont mix after completing a half-mile workout Friday.