08/16/2011 2:37PM

Remington Park: New season spotlights Friday nights

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Remington Park in Oklahoma City gave its facilities a makeover before the start of last year’s Thoroughbred meet. For the new season that opens Thursday night, the track has done the same for its stakes schedule. Remington has increased the purses for some of its key stakes, added new races, and repositioned others to make for a host of notable Friday-night features during the 67-date meet that runs through Dec. 10.

The $400,000 Oklahoma Derby on the lone Sunday card of the meet Oct. 16 remains the richest Thoroughbred race at the track. But it’s co-feature, the Remington Park Oaks, is now worth $250,000 after receiving a $50,000 boost for 2011. A $50,000 purse hike was also made to the Springboard Mile for 2-year-olds, making the race worth $300,000 when it is run Dec. 10.

The new races on offer include the $100,000 David M. Vance Sprint Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs Sept. 30. It is one of 18 stakes that will be run on Friday nights this meet at Remington. In all, there will be 28 stakes this season, worth a collective $3.2 million. The focus on Friday nights, with programs like the $1 million Oklahoma Classics series of eight statebred stakes Oct. 28, is tapping into a trend, according to Dan Fick, the new director of racing and racing secretary at Remington.

“With what’s been going on at Churchill Downs and Hollywood, over the years Friday night has become a big night for the simulcast betting public,” he said. “With a quality race you get [attention].”

Remington has also positioned races like the $100,000 Edward J. DeBartolo Memorial, once a staple on Labor Day, for a Friday-night slot Sept. 2. The $100,000 Clever Trevor, part of the meet’s 2-year-old series, is on another Friday night, Nov. 11.

Remington’s ontrack television presentation will be expanded this meet to make maximum use of a 50-foot high infield video screen that was first introduced during the Quarter Horse season in March. The multimillion-dollar video board is part of about $5 million in improvements that have been made to the Global Gaming-owned track since last year’s Thoroughbred meet, said Scott Wells, president and general manager of Remington.

“Video presentation is a big part of the entertainment experience at every sports franchise,” Wells said. “Horse racing is one of the more difficult [sports] to watch unless you do have good video. Global Gaming didn’t waste time in helping us achieve our goal of being state of the art in that realm.”

In other improvements, Remington is in the process of adding a gift shop, as well as a new restaurant for its ontrack casino.

Purses for the meet are projected to average $225,000 a day, said Wells. Fick said stall requests for the meet were strong, with among the new trainers expected Chris Richard, who is coming off a title win at Prairie Meadows, and Bart Hone, a leading horseman from Arizona.

“Again this year we had twice as many applications for stalls as we have stalls,” said Fick, who indicated Remington can house 1,404 horses.

Steve Asmussen, Bret Calhoun, and Donnie Von Hemel are among the top barns returning. Cliff Berry is back to lead a riding colony that includes Quincy Hamilton, Curtis Kimes, Chris Landeros, Luis Quinonez, and Lindey Wade. New faces include jockeys Roman Chapa and Florida import Diego Rodriguez, who will be represented by retired Remington riding star Don Pettinger.

The opening night-card features three allowances, with one, the fifth race, led by multiple stakes winner Coyote Legend, serving as a prep for the DeBartolo Memorial.