08/04/2004 12:00AM

Meet opens with gaming on horizon


Remington Park could enter an era of prosperity if a statewide gaming referendum is passed by Oklahoma voters on Nov. 2. But for now, it's business as usual as the track opens for a 67-date meet on Friday night. The season will run through Dec. 5.

Optimism for what the future might hold has led to a strong roster of stables at Remington this year. Trainers Donnie Von Hemel, who has won 11 titles at the track, defending champ Joe Offolter, Joe Petalino, and Joe Lucas will be joined by new stables, like that of Bret Calhoun.

"One thing that will be immediately seen in our racing program is the quality of horses racing here," said R.D. Logan, general manager of Remington.

"We had over 2,000 stall applications," said Fred Hutton, the track's director of racing. "We've allocated everything and have 40 stables on hold."

Polls show that the referendum has a strong chance to pass, which would allow Remington to operate 650 gaming machines. The number of machines can increase over time, and the revenue they will generate for purses and facility improvements has locals reeling, said Logan.

"I think everybody is upbeat for the first time in a long time," he said. "Horsemen in Oklahoma have something to look forward to on a positive note. We are all striving to get gaming passed."

If the measure passes, the machines would not be installed until after the current meet.

The Grade 3, $150,000 Oklahoma Derby is the richest of 20 stakes to be run this meet. For the first time, it will share a program with three other stakes: the $75,000 Remington MEC Mile for 2-year-olds; the $50,000 Remington Green; and the $40,000 Remington Park Oaks.

"We're planning on a big day," said Hutton.

Hutton said purses at the meet will average about $75,000 a day, a slight increase over last year. The bigger change is to the racing schedule. Remington has dropped Thursdays and added Mondays. The reason for the change is twofold, said Logan.

Officials are hoping Remington's signal will find a solid niche on less-crowded Mondays. Also, by racing during the days on Mondays, the track is catering to senior patrons who asked for more day racing.

Remington will also drop Saturday racing in October to avoid conflict with college football, and with sister track Lone Star Park, which will hold a special fall meet this year because it is hosting the Breeders' Cup.

Cliff Berry is seeking his 10th riding title at Remington. He heads a colony that includes Don Pettinger, R.D. Williams, and Nena Matz.

At a glance: Remington Park

RACING SCHEDULE: 67 days, from Friday through Dec. 5. Racing on a Friday through Monday basis except in October, when the track will not race the first four Saturdays.

POST TIMES: 6:25 p.m. Central on Friday and Saturday, and 1:15 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.

ADMISSION: $3.50, general; $1.50 for seniors age 62 and older; free for children under 17.

PARKING: Free, general.

HIGHLIGHTS: Grade 3, $150,000 Oklahoma Derby and $75,000 Remington MEC Mile on Nov. 21; the $125,000 DeBartolo Memorial Breeders' Cup on Sept. 6; and Oklahoma Classics Day, a program of seven stakes for registered Oklahoma-breds, on Sept. 25.

ADDRESS: Located at the intersection of Interstates 35 and 44 in Oklahoma City, Okla. The mailing address is One Remington Place, Oklahoma City, Okla., 73111.

PHONE: (405)424-1000

INTERNET: www.remingtonpark.com