08/08/2002 12:00AM

Oklahoma Derby may move to turf


This year could be the last time the Oklahoma Derby, richest race of the 76-day Remington Park meet, which opens Saturday, is run on dirt. Officials are seriously considering moving the Grade 3, $250,000 race to turf for the first time next year. The date of the race could also be pushed back to September or early October.

"It's something we're going to take a good look at," said Fred Hutton, director of racing for Remington Park. "It would give us a whole different set of horses to deal with."

As it stands now, Remington Park officials fight for horses with the $600,000 West Virginia Derby, which has seen tremendous purse growth since the addition of slots at Mountaineer, and the $500,000 Pennsylvania Derby. This year, both of those races fall within two weeks of the Oklahoma Derby, which is to be run Aug. 25.

Hutton said if the race moves to turf, he wants to find a place on the calendar that would help it draw 3-year-olds coming out of the summer turf series at Arlington Park and pointing for the fall running of the Hollywood Park Derby.

Among the early nominees for the Oklahoma Derby are Wiseman's Ferry, Cowboy Stuff, Vito Corleone, and Peekskill. The race got its start as the Remington Park Derby in 1988.

Medium Rare defends Taliaferro

Medium Rare, who opened the meet last year with a commanding win in the $30,000 Chuck Taliaferro Memorial, will try to turn the trick again Saturday in the six-furlong race that also drew regional stakes winners Joyful Tune, Temperence Time, and Dance and Dazzle.

Medium Rare, who has won 12 of 27 starts, comes into the Taliaferro on the heels of a third-place finish in the Minnesota HBPA Sprint at Canterbury on July 2. He shows a sharp final work for trainer Roger Engel, who has given the mount to Cliff Berry.

Robert Lester has the mount on Joyful Tune, who is a threat to steal the race on the front end. Another to watch is Dance and Dazzle, who goes for his fourth straight win. He has won two stakes at Fair Meadows in Tulsa in his last two starts.

Pettinger counts down to 3,000

Don Pettinger, the all-time winningest jockey at Remington, who surpassed 100 stakes wins at the track last year, is likely to reach another milestone here this meet. As of Thursday, he was 19 wins away from career victory 3,000.

Pettinger, who has won 1,209 races at Remington, including a record 105 stakes, has captured two titles at the track, in 1994 and 1995. Overall, the 40-year-old Pettinger has compiled a career record of 2,981 wins from 18,429 starts for mount earnings of $36,359,450.

Pettinger will miss opening day at Remington. He will be at Arlington to ride See How She Runs in the Grade 3, $100,000 Singapore Plate. He is named on horses in Oklahoma City on Sunday.

Surface switch for April's Lucky Boy

April's Lucky Boy, who won the $50,000 Bossier City Handicap on turf in his last start, returns to the main track Saturday in the first race, a one-mile allowance for 3-year-olds that could produce starters for the Oklahoma Derby.

The race also drew stakes winners Teague and Dusty Spike, who this spring finished second to eventual Grade 2 Arkansas Derby winner Private Emblem in a division of the $75,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn.

April's Lucky Boy has handled both turf and dirt. He is a two-time winner on each surface, and later this meet will likely return to turf for a couple of stakes, said trainer Donnie Von Hemel.

Bred in Oklahoma, the colt is eligible for the $30,000 Red Earth Derby at a mile on turf for statebreds Sept. 28, and the $50,000 Oklahoma Classics Day Turf on Oct. 27.

* Purses at the meet will average $80,000 a day.