08/09/2001 12:00AM

Magna's influence shows as meet opens


Remington Park in Oklahoma City will feel the influence of its parent company, Magna Entertainment, more than ever during its summer-fall Thoroughbred meet, which opens Saturday night. The 59-day season runs through Nov. 24.

Magna, which purchased Remington in October 1999, has shortened the meet from the awarded 68 by dropping some Mondays; converted the racing schedule to mostly nights; introduced a new way of taking entries; and has changed the name of the track's longtime signature race, the Grade 3 $300,000 Remington Park Derby, to the Oklahoma Derby.

Magna has also changed the date of the Derby, to be run Sunday, and moved it up two weeks from last year, helping to jump-start the meet. In other changes, the company has replaced the Remington Park Futurity with the $100,000 MEC Mile, a stakes for 2-year-olds.

Change can be a good thing. Officials hope that the later posts - racing starts at 6:30 p.m. Central on all days except holidays and Sundays - will produce increased handle on the track's races offsite.

"Sites will be able to take Remington more because of the post time change," said Greg Davis, national simulcasting director for Magna. "The biggest added pickup is on Fridays. Remington will be able to go into California with two or three races."

Donnie Von Hemel, who won his ninth Remington training title last fall, heads the list of horsemen returning for the new meet. He will be joined by regulars Joe Petalino, Kenny Smith, and Joe Offolter, as well as a handful of new faces, including Rennie McKnight and Jerry Dobbs.

Among jockeys, seven-time title winner Cliff Berry is back, as is Tim Doocy, who spent last season riding at Arlington Park. New faces in the colony include Rodney Trader and Seth Martinez, who is in from Canterbury.

Martinez will ride the undefeated Pogamoggan in the opening-night feature, the $25,000 Chuck Taliaferro Memorial. The 5 1/2-furlong race is the first of 34 stakes at the meet worth more than $2 million. Daily purses will average $100,000.

Pogamoggan, a winner of all three of his starts, ran perhaps the most outstanding race of his young career last fall when he won a local allowance over the Taliaferro distance in a lightning fast 1:03.13. In that race he defeated evental Remington Park Futurity winner Rockchalk Jayhawk, who will run in the Oklahoma Derby on Sunday.

The biggest threat to Pogamoggan, a 3-year-old gelding by Coordinator trained by Wilson Brown, could be Custer.