03/27/2017 2:26PM

Smith named general manager of Oaklawn


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Wayne Smith has been named general manager of Oaklawn Park in a transition made official during the Arkansas Racing Commission meeting Saturday.

Smith takes over from Eric Jackson, who said at the start of the meet that the baton would be passed to Smith at some point this season. Jackson, who has been the general manager for 30 years, will now be working on special projects for Oaklawn.

Jackson’s new title will be senior vice president, said John Cella, son of Oaklawn president Charles Cella. John Cella said Smith takes over the role of general manager immediately, after spending the last year working as assistant general manager to make for a smooth transition at this meet.

“Wayne Smith begins an exciting new era for Oaklawn,” Charles Cella said in a statement. “It’s been a tremendous pleasure working with Eric Jackson. Because of his dedication and guidance, Oaklawn has become a leader in both racing and gaming. We look forward to Wayne building on that success.”

Smith becomes just the sixth general manager at Oaklawn, a track the Cella family has owned and operated since its inaugural season in 1904. Smith is a Rhode Island native who has worked for such companies as Caesar’s Entertainment, Empire City Racing and Gaming, and Penn Gaming.

Lynn dies at 53

Trainer Jeffery Lynn, a well-liked horseman who long based his stable in Arkansas and Illinois, died Saturday after a two-year battle with cancer, confirmed his wife, Jane Lynn. Jeffery Lynn died at his home in Illinois surrounded by family, including the couple’s sons, Dillon, 20, and Carson, 14.

“He touched a lot of lives,” Jane Lynn said. “He was humble and kind and just a lovely man.”

Jeffery Lynn was a Nebraska native and the grandson of a trainer, and he grew up going to the races at Ak-Sar-Ben, Jane Lynn said. She said her husband got his start working at a breeding farm before moving to the racetrack and spending about a decade working for trainer T.V. Smith. Lynn then went out on his own as a trainer. He won his first race in 1993 with Norstat at Columbus in Nebraska, his wife said.

Jeffery Lynn’s best horses through the years included stakes winners Meshell, Major Rhythm, Kerry Blue, and Lovesme Legend. His final starter came last Thursday at Oaklawn, where Smiling Charlie finished fourth in a $7,500 starter allowance, the same level the horse had won at for the barn one start earlier on March 4.

Jane Lynn said a memorial service is tentatively planned for June 4 at Arlington Park.

Dates set for 2018

Oaklawn’s 2018 racing calendar was approved by the Arkansas Racing Commission on Saturday.

The meet will be similar to the current season. Oaklawn will open Jan. 12 and race 57 dates through April 14. The Arkansas Derby is held on the final card of each meet at Oaklawn.