08/17/2010 1:37PM

New owner pumps $7 million into Remington Park

Dustin Orona Photography
Remington Park has spent more than $7 million to upgrade its facility.

With more than $7 million in improvements awaiting patrons returning to Remington Park for Thursday night’s opener, it’s evident that the Oklahoma City track has ushered in a new era of ownership. Global Gaming, a subsidiary of Chickasaw Nation, has changed the look of Remington’s face, apron, and guts since completing an $80 million deal to buy the track and its 750-machine casino from Magna Entertainment in January.

“It’s a real makeover,” said Scott Wells, who remains in place as president of Remington. “Global Gaming’s done more for Remington Park in seven months by way of improvements than had been done in the previous 20 years.

“The whole city is buzzing about the meet. Group sales are up. Reservations are up. There’s just a very, very positive buzz throughout the whole community.”

Remington will race 67 dates through Dec. 11, on a new Wednesday through Saturday night schedule. Patrons on hand for the nine-race opener will be greeted by an updated entrance, with the old stone-colored building refaced and repainted with tan and maroon coloring that pops. Inside, portions of the grandstand area have been opened up, with the chain restaurant Henry Hudson’s Pub and Grill replacing the old trackside cafe. The restaurant pours out onto the apron area, and the whole apron sports a new look, with architectural pavers replacing the old asphalt surface.

“There are now fountains and planters on the apron, which really give it a much more green, cool, comfortable feeling,” Wells said. “It’s a much more park-like feeling than it ever was before.”

Wells said the track’s 20 suites also have been remodeled, while a new video tote board expected to be in place in October.

“It will be an absolute state-of-the-art video board,” he said. “It will be three stories high, with the highest definition available in today’s market.”

On the racetrack, the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby will be one of five stakes worth a cumulative $850,000 on the lone Sunday card of the meet on Oct. 10. Other significant programs include the Oct. 22 running of Oklahoma Classics Night, which will be worth a record $1 million. Remington also has created a new series for 2-year-olds that will open with the $50,000 Kip Deville at six furlongs Oct. 8. The $100,000 Clever Trevor at seven furlongs follows Nov. 6. The series concludes with the $250,000 Springboard Mile on Dec. 11, a fixture that has been boosted in value by $50,000.

“Each year since the casino has been in inception, the 2-year-old program just seems to get stronger,” said Fred Hutton, director of racing for Remington. “We want these fellows sitting on 2-year-olds they believe will be good enough to be on the classics trail to seriously take a look at Remington Park.”

Hutton has had requests for 3,100 stalls, with his 1,400-horse backstretch to house a mix of barns from throughout the Midwest. The list is led by Steve Asmussen, the leading trainer in North America who last year set a Remington record for wins in a meet. The track, which will start its purse structure at $210,000 a day, also will have a strong lineup of jockeys. Aaron Gryder, Shane Laviolette, Bobby Walker Jr., and Ramsey Zimmerman are new to a colony that includes Cliff Berry and Chris Landeros.

Remington’s races will be shown for the first time on TVG, while its signal will have a greater international presence. The track will go into new sites in South Africa and more places in the Caribbean and England. Field sizes could trump last year’s average of 9.6 starters per race. Remington will now accommodate as many as 14 horses in most races in an expansion over its previous limit of 12.