Year Inducted: 2012
The first leader of Remington Park, the contributions made by David Vance were lengthy as he managed the creation of a state-of-the-art horse racing and entertainment facility. Charged with planning and overseeing the construction of the property leading to the Grand Opening in 1988, Vance also handled executive operations for Remington Park’s formative years.
The son of a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, David Vance was born in Knoxville, Tenn. While still an infant, the family moved to Kentucky where Vance would live for 40 years. He followed his father’s career path into print journalism. While still in Franklin County High School, Vance worked for The State Journal in Frankfort, Ky. He would also work for the Lexington Herald and the Associated Press before moving to the other side of the media table to work in public relations. That choice would lead Vance to a highly-regarded career in sports management.
Collegiately, Vance began his higher education in Kentucky, first at Morehead State, and then graduating from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. He stayed there, working as the head of the public relations office until called by the general manager of the Kentucky Colonels, a professional team in the fledgling American Basketball Association. The ABA, and its legendary style of play and outlandish characters, served as a rival to the more stoic and revered National Basketball Association. Vance accepted an offer to join the team as the publicity man in 1970.
Vance helped sell the popularity of the Colonels through various fan promotions, to go along with a successful team on the court. He was elevated to the general manager position just in time for the nostalgic ending of the ABA. The Colonels won the 1975 ABA Championship with Vance at the helm as the youngest general manager in all of pro basketball. By 1976, the ABA was merged into the NBA with four teams joining the older league and the others disbanded, including the Colonels.
Through the many networking connections he had developed over the years, Vance was a hot commodity on the professional market once the Colonels were finished. He received a call to interview with the Kentucky Jockey Club which operated Latonia Race Course (now Turfway Park) in Florence, Ky., on the Kentucky side of the greater Cincinnati area. Hired as the president of the track, the opportunity was like a dream come true for a son of Kentucky, allowing him to hold positions in two hallowed commonwealth institutions, basketball and horse racing.
At Turfway, Vance created the Spiral Stakes, developing the race into a major Kentucky Derby prep held every spring. The day would become the biggest annual race day for the track. After a few years at Turfway, the 1980s had arrived and Vance was on the move away from his Kentucky home. He became the head of Louisiana Downs in Bossier City and eventually president of DeBartolo Racing which founded Remington Park for the late Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr.
Continuing his flair of building business through promotion, honed in his days with the ABA Colonels, Vance instituted the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs. The race became a premier post Triple Crown event and major prep race for the new Breeders’ Cup World Championships which had been born.
The state of Oklahoma legalized pari-mutuel racing in the early 1980s and DeBartolo Racing recognized an opportunity for a major racetrack in Oklahoma City. Vance took the helm in guiding the evolution of Remington Park from a vast acreage of undeveloped land to placing the new property on the national horse racing destination map.
Utilizing a hand-picked team of management leaders, many of which would become heads of their own racing venues and companies, Vance helped create numerous big racing and promotional days at Remington Park. The events worked to build large attendance and mutuel handle numbers in a time when there was only wagering on live horse racing. There was no full card simulcast racing and no casino gaming. Of the top 10 wagering dates in Remington Park history, nine of them took place when Vance had command.
Top-flight customer service was paramount to Vance and his instituted marketing concept of “Remington Friendly” was an affordable way for track staff to make all guests feel good about their visit to Remington Park, whether they won or not. A race day at Remington Park was the talk of the industry during this era. Recognized for making Oklahoma City a racing hotspot, Vance was elected the president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations in 1993.
In his years after leaving Remington Park at the end of 1995, Vance has continued as a consultant in horse racing ventures. He has also led franchises in minor league sports including the Oklahoma City Redhawks in baseball and the arena football Oklahoma City Wranglers. In 2011, the David M. Vance Stakes was first held in his honor at Remington Park.