08/18/2009 11:00PM

Record purses as track's sale looms


Although a sale of Remington Park by owner Magna Entertainment is in the offing, the Oklahoma City track begins its 67-date season Friday with a revamped race week, a renovated stakes schedule, and record purses of $250,000 a day.

The changes have been fueled by a 700-machine gaming casino that has helped Remington lure an $80.25 million bid from Global Gaming. Owned by the Chickasaw tribe in Ada, Okla., the company last week was identified as the leading bidder for the track. Magna, which filed for bankruptcy in March, is set to sell Remington at an auction in New York on Sept. 8.

"We expect the approval and licensing processes to last approximately 60 days," said Scott Wells, president of Remington.

Wells has led the charge in restructuring the track's 24-race, $2.4 million stakes schedule this meet. Purses for a number of key races have been doubled, while others, such as a handful of 2-year-old stakes like the $200,000 Springboard Mile on Dec. 13, have been repositioned on the calendar.

"We've done this in an effort to more appropriately showcase our top level of competition and to draw top horses from around the country," Wells said.

Remington has drawn shippers from Illinois, Kentucky, and Maryland for its first major stakes of the meet, the $200,000 Remington Park Sprint Championship on Saturday. The race also lured some quality locals in Sing Baby Sing, Greeley's Conquest, and Ez Dreamer. It will share a card with the $100,000 Remington Park Filly and Mare Sprint.

The richest program of the meet comes Oct. 11, when three stakes worth a total of $750,000 will be run on Oklahoma Derby Day. The card includes the Oklahoma Derby, which has been boosted from $350,000 to $400,000; the $200,000 Remington Park Oaks, up from $75,000 and moved to dirt; and the $150,000 Remington Green, which has been boosted in value by $25,000.

"We're trying to give top stables more than one reason to be here on the weekend of Oct. 11," Wells said.

Remington's overnight purse structure has lured some new faces for the meet, which runs through Dec. 14. Kory Owens is back after a long absence to join a roster of trainers that includes Steve Asmussen, the winner of the title last year, Bret Calhoun, and Donnie Von Hemel. Jockey Luis Quinonez also is back to defend his title against a colony that includes Cliff Berry, Chris Landeros, Eddie Martin Jr., Quincy Hamilton, and Alex Jimenez.

Remington's race week will begin on Fridays, with the track dropping Thursdays this meet in favor of racing on Mondays. The first Monday card will be held Aug. 31. The change in the raceweek structure was made with an eye toward increasing simulcast play on Remington.

"We listened to requests from horsemen who thought that we would be better served by offering live racing on Mondays as opposed to Thursdays, and we've responded to their requests," Wells said. "If [new players] get to know us on Mondays, we think they'll be impressed enough to start playing us on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday."

First post Friday is 6:30 p.m. Central.