03/30/2005 12:00AM

Distance stakes, derby trials get Remington off to fast start

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The prime dates of the final "slotless" Remington Park Quarter Horse season commence on Friday night with a competitive running of the Remington Park Distance Championship and the well-stocked trials to the Remington Park Derby.

One day of the 32-date season was held on March 19 to contest the trials to the Lazy E Futurity and Derby. The finals will be held on April 9.

Horsemen will be running for an average daily purse distribution of $70,000 to $75,000, not including nomination and sustaining fees to futurities and derbies paid by horsemen. Next year, purses will be bolstered by 650 slot machines going online during the last half of 2005, according to general manager Scott Wells.

In the Distance Championship, Cass Can is looking for his first 2005 win after making two starts at Sunland Park, including a fourth-place finish in the New Mexico Distance Challenge after a wide trip. Last year, he won the Prairie Meadows 870 Handicap and was on the board in 7 of 10 starts, including going 2 for 2 at 870 yards.

In the three derby trials, the 2004 meet's top two futurity horses - Remington Park Futurity winner Eye Yin You and Heritage Place Futurity winner Phoebes Otoole - will each make his seasonal debut.

This is the second straight year that the Quarter Horse meet has been run during the spring at Remington after having been run during the summer in 2003.

"The spring season kicks off the championship run for many stables, so it works very well," said racing secretary Fred Hutton.

The meet attracted defending champion trainer Eddie Willis along with Jack Brooks, Rodney Reed, Russell Harris, Pat Swan, John Hammes, Toby Keeton, Don Mourning, and newcomer Ed Hardy. More than 1,100 horses are on the grounds and the 1,200-stall stable area is expected to reach capacity.

Topping the stakes calendar are the Grade 1 Heritage Place Futurity (May 21), Grade 1 Heritage Place Derby (May 21), and the Grade 1 MBNA America Oklahoma Challenge (June 4).

Racing will be conducted Friday through Sunday nights with an afternoon program on Memorial Day. Wells and Hutton expect the evening post times to increase simulcast interest in Remington races.