Remington Park’s rollercoaster ride began Sept. 1, 1988, and 22 years later, horse racing’s belle of the Sooner State got herself a facelift just in time for the track’s Aug. 19 opening of the 67-day Thoroughbred season.
Hundreds of construction workers have been on hand for the eight months since Global Gaming Solutions took ownership of the racetrack and casino.
Greg Pittman, vice president of development for Global Gaming Solutions, said the activities will continue, and the company will spend as much as $12 million on renovations.
“It has been a long eight months of renovation, and we had made our plans for it four months prior to the company taking over,” Pittman said. “It went through some neglect in 22 years. And it was all one color; it was bland and hospital-like. It has been a big challenge.”
The fortunes of Remington changed Nov. 2, 2004, when Oklahomans voted to allow the state’s tracks to have gaming machines. A year later, Remington, which was then owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., opened a casino.
Global Gaming Solutions, part of the Chickasaw Tribe, has worked to revive the facility.
“Our philosophy is to make Remington Park into an entertainment venue and bring in as many entertainment options as we can,” Pittman said. “It’s more than racing and it’s more than a casino. We wanted to bring in restaurants and have concerts, boxing, conventions, and weddings.”
The entire facility has been updated in many forms, including the grandstand, the track apron and infield, a new tote board, the addition of a Henry Hudson’s bar and grill on the track level, and many updates to the suites level. In addition, the jockeys’ quarters have been updated. Also, 50 games have been added to the casino (pushing the total to 750), and flat-screen televisions have been installed throughout the building.
Scott Wells, Remington president and general manager and native Oklahoman, and said it’s important to have a state-based company in charge of the track’s future.
“It’s so gratifying to see this place finally looking like this,” Wells said. “It has a history of a glamorous setting, and it’s one of most elegant places in Oklahoma. This is the first time the track has been owned by an Oklahoma company. They care about their reputation here.”
Wells said the legislation has done what it was intended to do for the horse racing industry.
“The whole industry here has been revitalized,” Wells said. “The Thoroughbred product is getting better by the year. We rank 4th in daily average purses in tracks that race more than 100 days a year. We will give away $210,000 per day this season, and that’s a far cry from what it was. There was a time when the purses were about $64,000 per day.”
Wells said the proof of success is in the interest shown.
“You see a guy like Calvin Borel coming in to ride opening weekend, and it says a lot,” he said.
Borel, who has won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) in three of the last four years, will ride Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) winner Attaboy Boy Boy in the $200,000 Remington Park Sprint Cup Aug. 21.
Top races for the season, which will run through Dec. 11, include the $150,000 Governor’s Cup, also Aug. 21; the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby Oct. 10; and a series for 2-year-olds that includes the $50,000 Kip Deville Stakes at six furlongs Oct. 8, the $100,000 Clever Trevor Stakes at seven furlongs Nov. 6, and the $250,000 Springboard Mile Dec. 11.
The track also will card the $1 million-plus Oklahoma Classics Night, which is comprised of eight stakes for Oklahoma-breds.