From the start to finish, trainer keeps Oklahoma horse racing strong

Piedmont’s Von Hemel has been a staple of Remington Park

Piedmont horse trainer Donnie Von Hemel was at Remington Park when the Oklahoma City racetrack opened 35 years ago this Friday. He has about 20 horses racing this fall at Remington.

By Robert Medley
Senior Staff Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY – As Remington Park celebrates its 35th anniversary, Piedmont’s own Donnie Von Hemel has been there to see it all.

Von Hemel is a horse trainer who was there when the racetrack opened in 1988.

He’d seen the beginning and is keeping it strong today at Remington Park, which has horse racing and a casino.

Shopping mall developer Edward DeBartolo Sr., who owned Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La. and Thistledown racetrack in Cleveland, Ohio, initiated construction of Remington Park in 1986.

Completed at a reported cost of more than $90 million, Remington Park opened for its first races on Sept. 1, 1988.

Von Hemel has had horses entered in major national races including The Kentucky Derby.

In 2016, Von Hemel had a fifth-place finisher in the Derby with Suddenbreakingnews.

Remington Park’s 35th anniversary celebration is Friday, Sept. 1 at the racetrack, One Remington Way near Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and NE 50th in northeast Oklahoma City.

The thoroughbred racing season opened Aug. 18 and continues until Dec. 15.

Von Hemel, who was working in Louisville, Ky. this week, said the 35th anniversary is an important milestone to horse racing in Oklahoma and the industry it has become since Remington’s opening day in 1988.

“It is the signature racetrack in Oklahoma,” Von Hemel said. “They run the most days whether it’s quarter horses or thoroughbreds. They give away the most money for both breeds also.

“For anyone who runs in Oklahoma it’s the premiere meet in Oklahoma.”



Von Hemel was a young trainer in 1988 when he closed on a house in Piedmont – where he has lived since.

The TV networks set up crews in the infield for Remington Park’s opening day in 1988. Von Hemel recalls the TV coverage lasted all day.

“It was a pretty exciting time being a young trainer and hoping it would become part of the circuit we would race on,” Von Hemel said.

He had worked with the DeBartolo family before Remington Park.

“I had familiarity with the management team there and I thought they had a real good chance of being successful,” Von Hemel said.

The meets were in the fall for thoroughbreds and the spring for quarter horses.

Von Hemel, 61, said he had 10 horses racing in Kentucky and about 20 horses at Remington this fall.