ST. PETERSBURG — Lester Raines Kennel's Craigie Mr Venus and McAllister Kennels' Flyin Home Depot have been golden in the 69th annual Gold Trophy Juvenile Stakes.
The 550-yard sprinters shared the qualifying lead with 56 points, totaling six victories — one more than the remaining six rivals combined.
But at Thursday's post draw, the luck of the Irish was on kennel operator Mick D'Arcy's side. His Forest Dylan, fourth-leading qualifier, drew No. 1. That, according to D'Arcy, is a key piece of the puzzle needed tonight for the 28-month-old black male out of a litter by Stan's Boy Flyer and Kingdom Win to capture the $20,000 event (Race 8, 9:30).
"He needs a lot of luck," D'Arcy said. "He barely gets the trip; he's a speed 550 dog and won't be coming from behind. He needs the one-hole and bunching up behind him."
The Gold Trophy is the biggest race of the juveniles' careers. None of the finalists owns a stakes win, and the $9,000 first-place prize will the winner's largest. Other entries in qualifying order are Deco Ellen Alone, Flying Regent, Kiowa Ice Man, Born To Dream and Shadowy.
Forest Dylan, winner of eight career races for owners Daniel Greene and Kevin Doyle, may need his best lifetime performance. In 46 starts, he has only three 550-yard times under 31 seconds, all at 30.94. His qualifying win on May 14 was the series' slowest (31.28). The average winning time has been 30.90.
D'Arcy Kennel is going after its second stakes upset of the meet. On March 1, 19-1 shot Kinloch Brae scored a box-to-wire win in the $85,000 Sprint Classic.
Flyin Home Depot has won five of his past six starts. Deco Ellen Alone, representing Nova Kennel, is attempting to become the first female winner since 1996. A victory by Kiowa Ice Man would give back-to-back titles to Filipelli & O'Donnell, 2007 winner with Hallo Flying Sol.
MORE GREYHOUNDS: Red Dirt Road of LaRosa Enterprises finished second Friday night to remain tied at 37 wins with Magic City's Extruding Dream (2005-06). … Derby Lane will offer a matinee-evening doubleheader on Monday. It will be the track's final Monday matinee performance, which is being eliminated for the summer. Simulcast wagering and poker will not be affected.
THOROUGHBREDS: Three graded races highlight a 26-stakes schedule today. Multiple graded-stakes winner Mauralakana carries top weight of 119 pounds in the Grade II $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap (5:15 p.m.) at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Brass Hat, career earner of $1,753,819, goes for his first turf win against 10 rivals, including Tampa Bay Downs' Challenger Stakes runner Birdbirdistheword, in the Grade III $150,000 Louisville Handicap (5:51 p.m.) at Churchill Downs. Fort Prado, who achieved millionaire status in his last start and won the '06 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup in Oldsmar, is entered in the Grade III $100,000 Hanshin Cup Handicap (6:08 p.m.) at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill. … The simulcast signal for the Belmont Stakes on June 7 is expected to be exported to Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens, where it will be distributed to Tampa Bay Downs, Derby Lane and Tampa Greyhound Track. Calder spokeswoman Michele Blanco said horsemen in Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Ohio, and Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., continue to block their state race signals into Florida, because of disputes involving advance-deposit wagering sites, purses and slots revenue. She said the only out-of-state source offering Calder races is New York City off-track betting.