Though he did not call a race for the last seven years of his life, Terry Wallace remains for many the voice of Oaklawn Park.
And, now, it is forever silenced.
Oaklawn's announcer for 37 years, once calling 20,191 consecutive races at the track, Wallace died Thursday at age 74 following a lengthy illness.
"Terry was one of the legends of Oaklawn," Senior Vice President Eric Jackson said in a release. "For generations of Arkansas racing fans, he was the voice of Oaklawn and for a time he was the most recognized voice in the state. It's a very sad day for the Oaklawn family as we have lost an important part of our history."
"He had so many classic calls," said track President Louis Cella. "And he had a way of making even a mundane race seem incredibly exciting."
Wallace's race calls included victories by some of the most important, and popular, horses ever to run at Oaklawn. Among them are classic winners Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Curlin and Rachel Alexandra along with the incomparable racemare Zenyatta. One of his most famous race calls took place in the 1995 Oaklawn Handicap when Cigar, then early in a 16-race winning streak that would make him Horse of the Year and tie a North American record, beat an all-star field.
"Terry wasn't just the voice of Oaklawn for generations of Arkansas racing fans everywhere," said David Longinotti, director of Oaklawn Anywhere and first associated with Wallace as a reporter with The Sentinel-Record.
"His passion for the sport was truly contagious. He also put that passion into being a civic-minded member of the Hot Springs community."
Over the years, Wallace became a Spa City treasure for serving on the boards of local charities. Heading the Garland County chapter of the American Cancer Society Leadership Council, Wallace helped raise nearly $3 million to fight the disease.
The United Way presented him a special award last December for longtime service to the community, and according to an Oaklawn release, the organization plans to bestow the Terry Wallace Volunteer Award "to the person who goes above and beyond much the same way that Terry had."
The Ohio-born Wallace held a language degree from Xavier University in his native Cincinnati and even spent a year at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Though something of a renaissance man, Wallace was a racetracker at heart. He worked at River Downs in his hometown and also at Great Barrington, Louisiana Downs, Ak-Sar-Ben and Horsemen's Park. His work at the latter two tracks brought him induction to the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame. He entered the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
"You never met a more enthusiastic fan of racing and life here in his adopted state of Arkansas," said Rolly Hoyt, husband of Oaklawn media relations director Jennifer Hoyt, on Twitter.
Wallace retired after the 2011 Oaklawn season as only the third racecaller in track history. His 20,191 consecutive calls prompted Oaklawn to submit an application with the "Guinness Book of World Records" as a possible world record.
No. 20,000, in a local career that began in 1975, occurred in Race 3 on March 25, 2010. He subsequently received letters of congratulations from former President Bill Clinton and then Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe. In addition, the mayor of Hot Springs declared "Terry Wallace Day" in the community.
"Terry Wallace was such a classy gentleman and ambassador for Oaklawn Park," California-based announcer Frank Mirahmadi, who succeeded Wallace in the Oaklawn booth, said on Twitter. "His passion was contagious. His great calls will be remembered forever. He treated me so kindly before, during and after my time in Arkansas."
For a number of years after his retirement as announcer, Wallace authored The Sentinel-Record Morning Line during the Oaklawn season.
Wallace's death comes exactly one year after that of Charles J. Cella, said Louis Cella, who succeeded his father as track president. Also within the last year, Oaklawn has lost Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg and former local riding champion and steward Larry Snyder.
Survivors include his wife, Alice, two sons, one daughter and four grandchildren.
Wally Hall, sports editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, said on Twitter that Wallace "leaves legions of friends and admirers."
Oaklawn media personality Nancy Ury-Holthus tweeted, "He is and will always be Mr. Oaklawn to me. RIP."Sports on 12/07/2018
Print Headline: Wallace, longtime 'voice of Oaklawn', dies at 74