05/28/2003 12:00AM

Thistledown spruces up


NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - When patrons pull into the parking lot at Thistledown, they are greeted with a brand new look that is much more inviting. Similar improvements have been made throughout the plant, creating a cheerier atmosphere.

The high chain-link fences that surrounded the parking area have been torn down, and trees and bushes have been planted. Inside the grandstand, the high walls that enclosed the Classic seating area - where players have individual televisions and earphones - have been torn down. The popular bar area on the main level is now twice as big, and two new escalators move people from the second to sixth levels.

Down on the apron, the steel bar fence that had surrounded the winner's circle has been taken down and is in the process of being renovated. Another fence, between the grandstand and paddock, has been replaced by an attractive split-rail fence.

* Nominations will close on June 9 for this year's 69th running of the Grade 2, $300,000 Ohio Derby, which will be run June 21.

* The first session of the popular Morning Glory Club will be June 7 at 9:30 a.m. It will be hosted by track announcer Charles Pinnell, and fans can enjoy complimentary coffee and doughnuts and be eligible to win prizes.

* Jockey Luis Gonzalez was red hot last weekend, when he rode six winners and went to the head of the jockey standings. On Sunday, Julio Felix won four of seven races. The first three were for trainer Jeff Radosevich.