08/08/2012 2:49PM

Remington Park: Meet opens Friday, Oklahoma Derby earlier on calendar

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Remington Park has repositioned its Oklahoma Derby Day program of rich stakes, installed a 68-foot long bar overlooking the winner’s circle, and brought on a new racing secretary as key changes for the track’s 67-date meet that opens Friday night. The season continues through Dec. 9.

Remington will run the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby two weeks earlier this year, on Sept. 30. The mile and an eighth race anchors a card of five stakes worth $1 million, with other key events being the $250,000 Remington Park Oaks and the $200,000 Remington Park Sprint Cup. Last year, the races were run Oct. 16.

“There were two factors that went into the change, one of them racing-related,” said Scott Wells, president and general manager of Remington. “We wanted the day to be positioned a little farther away from the Breeders’ Cup to give horses an ideal spacing between our races and the Breeders’ Cup.

“I think it sets those races up to be ideally spaced as Breeders’ Cup preps . . . there are not that many $200,000 sprints around at six furlongs, and I think that may be a very attractive race, being centrally located here in Oklahoma, for horses that might be wanting a prep.”

Wells said the Oklahoma Derby Day card was also moved to avoid conflicting with the highly-popular, annual Oklahoma-University of Texas football game in Dallas known as the Red River Rivalry.

“We’ve learned from hard experience we need to stay away from that week,” he said. “A large part of our sporting audience is consumed with football fever that particular week.”

Patrons returning to Remington on Friday night will find a new bar on the second floor of the grandstand. The new area is called the Inside Rail.

“We put in a 68-foot long bar,” said Wells. “It’s right on the glass, and it overlooks the winner’s circle and the finish line. It’s the best place to watch a race.”

The bar is adjacent to the casino floor, where Remington, which is owned by Global Gaming Solutions, a subsidiary of Chickasaw Nation, houses 750 electronic gaming machines.

The casino helps fund Remington’s rich racing program that will now be overseen by Mike Shamburg, the track’s new director of racing and racing secretary.

Shamburg, 58, comes in from Remington’s sister track, Lone Star Park near Dallas, and replaces Dan Fick.

Shamburg and his assistant Tim Williams, who will be the new Quarter Horse racing secretary at Remington, will oversee a program that features 31 stakes races worth $3.5 million. The stakes action opens Saturday night with the running of the $200,000 Governor’s Cup. The field for the mile and an eighth race was set Wednesday, and it drew five horses, including Grade 2 winners Alternation and Prayer for Relief. Also on the card is the $100,000 David M. Vance. Remington’s other key stakes events this meet will include the $1 million Oklahoma Classics Night program of eight divisional stakes for Oklahoma-breds on Oct. 19, and the $300,000 Remington Springboard for 2-year-olds at a mile Dec. 9.

Wells said purses are projected to average $230,000 a program. The opening-night card features a $40,000 allowance for fillies and mares at seven and a half furlongs on turf. The race drew She’s All In, the dominant winner of the Grade 3 Sixty Sails earlier this year at Hawthorne who is being pointed for defense of her title in next month’s $100,000 River Cities at Louisiana Downs. Luis Quinonez will ride She’s All In for trainer Donnie Von Hemel.

Steve Asmussen, a multiple training title winner at Remington who will be inducted into the track’s Hall of Fame during ceremonies in September, is back for the new season. Other trainers with local divisions include Bret Calhoun, Chris Richard, Danny Pish, and Von Hemel. Cliff Berry leads the lineup of local jockeys that on Friday night includes Jamie Theriot.

Remington will race mostly on a Wednesday through Saturday night basis, with special Sunday cards on Oklahoma Derby Day and Springboard Mile Day.