08/02/2006 12:00AM

Casino helps sweeten purse structure

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This is the meet they've been waiting for at Remington Park.

With a casino now in full swing, there will be a record purse distribution will during the 68-date season, which opens Friday night. It is a revived Remington, the kind of meet state industry leaders in Oklahoma envisioned when a referendum providing for electronic gaming was passed in 2004.

"We're thrilled to death to be kicking off what we think is going to be a new era for Remington Park and for Oklahoma Thoroughbred racing," said Scott Wells, vice president and general manager of Remington.

The track's casino opened Nov. 21, 2005, and has helped fuel a purse structure of $185,000 a day this meet. Last year, the purse structure was less than $100,000 a day, and in 2004 it was $75,000 a day.

The rejuvenated purses have helped Remington lure a number of stables back to Oklahoma City and draw new faces. Fred Hutton, racing secretary at Remington, said he had requests for more than 3,100 stalls. The backstretch houses 1,200.

"This product's going to be through the roof this year," he said. "I think it's going to be unlike anything that I've seen in the seven years that I've been here."

Entries were fast and furious for the opening card, with 100 horses entered in nine races. The first race is the $50,000 Adena Springs, a five-furlong turf sprint for fillies and mares that drew last-out stakes winner Magic Power and the promising Follow the Lite.

In all, there are 29 stakes at the meet, with combined purses exceeding $2 million, up from $1.2 million last meet. The richest offering is the $250,000 Oklahoma Derby on Oct. 20. Boosted in value from $150,000, the race will be supported by five other stakes. A meet-high $675,000 in purses will be distributed on the Friday night program.

The casino, on the second floor of the grandstand, boasts 650 electronic, bingo-based gaming machines. They play like slots, and through last Thursday they had generated $5.2 million for Thoroughbred purses. The machines share a 76,000 square-foot space with an upscale racebook and buffet that were part of a $35 million improvement project. The casino is unique for its location in the grandstand.

"When racing starts, the curtain opens when the horses come out on the track and then you get the real mixed flavor of casino gaming and live racing happening at the same time. It's just an electric area," said Wells.

First post Friday is 6:30 p.m.