Trainer Steve Asmussen, owner/breeder Don McNeill, track exectuive David Vance, and horses Kip Deville and Highland Ice comprise the 2012 Thoroughbred class set for induction into the Oklahoma Horse Racing Hall of Fame, it was announced June 22. The inductees will be honored Sept. 26 at Remington Park.
Asmussen, currently the fifth-leading trainer all-time by wins and earnings, launched his career at Remington. His initial leading trainer title was won during the 1991 fall meeting in Oklahoma City when he saddled 20 winners. After winning three training titles and a leading owner title at Remington, he began his continental training system in the late 1990s, expanding to include multiple branches at tracks across North America. While normally sending stakes runners to compete in the top races in Oklahoma City, the Texas resident returned with a full-force stable in 2007 and immediately dominated, beginning a streak of five straight training titles that he will attempt to run to six in the 2012 season.
McNeill, a resident of Edmond, Okla., has long been one of the top Thoroughbred owners in the state. Consistently campaigning his top runners at Remington, the commodities broker has placed his athletes in the capable hands of fellow Hall of Famer Donnie Von Hemel for nearly 30 years. Horses he has owned and bred include Clever Trevor, the winner of the inaugural Oklahoma Derby; Mr Ross, a millionaire and multiple graded stakes winner; and Caleb's Posse , winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I). All three are millionaires and all have raced at Remington with both Clever Trevor and Mr Ross also in the Hall of Fame. McNeill is the co-owner of Caleb’s Posse, who is still in training and preparing for a return to the Breeders’ Cup this fall.
Vance was the first leader of Remington and his contributions included overseeing the planning, construction and grand opening of the facility. He then led Remington through 1995, placing the Oklahoma City track on the national racing map during his tenure. Vance, who worked at Turfway Park and was the head of Louisiana Downs, was president of DeBartolo Racing, which founded Remington for the late Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. In his years after leaving Remington, Vance has continued as a consultant in horse racing ventures and has also led franchises in Oklahoma City minor league sports. In 2011, the David M. Vance Stakes was first held in his honor at the track he helped build.
Kip Deville is the all-time leading Oklahoma-bred earner with a bankroll of $3,325,489 earned from 12 wins, including a victory in the 2007 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT). Bred by Dr. Warren Center’s Center Hills Farm, the gray son of Kipling began his career at Remington by breaking his maiden at first asking in 2005. He scored by 3 1/2 lengths in a six-furlong sprint for Oklahoma-breds for original owners Dee Neatherlin and Roy Cobb and trainer Mike Neatherlin, and was eventually purchased privately by IEAH Stable after romping to victory in the Grand Prairie Turf Challenge at Lone Star Park.
Highland Ice is known as a true horse for the course, one who rarely tasted defeat in a three-year span from 1996-99 while ruling the sprint ranks at Remington in the prime of his career. Upon retirement in 2001, he had compiled a record for career victories and stakes victories at Remington, earning $474,090 while finishing in the top three in 33 of 48 attempts. Bred by the late Walter Merrick, the gelded son of Highland Blade was purchased at a Heritage Place sale by Gerald Dixon and placed in the hands of trainer Chuck Turco. Fifteen of his 16 career wins came at Remington, including stakes victories in both open and state-bred company. He was a two-time winner of the Remington Park Sprint Championship and the Silver Bullet Centennial Handicap, and won five consecutive Oklahoma Classics stakes events from 1995 to 1999, including four straight editions of the Sprint.
The induction ceremony for the Oklahoma Horse Racing Hall of Fame at Remington Park is part of Oklahoma Derby week, leading to the state’s biggest Thoroughbred race Sept. 30. The ceremony is a ticketed event, open to the public, benefitting the Hall of Fame.