ST. PETERSBURG — John Filipelli goes into tonight's $40,000 St. Petersburg Derby series on a Rocky Mountain high. What else would you expect from the kennel owner-trainer who was raised in Colorado and provided Derby Lane with one of its historic moments this week?
The track is still abuzz over Filipelli & O'Donnell Kennel's seven wins in Tuesday's 14-race performance, thought to be a modern record at the 84-year-old facility. But Derby Lane's top operation has unfinished business: It wants to win the meet's final stakes and capture its second kennel crown in three years. Odds favor both happening.
Tmc's Remedy, the Distance Classic winner for Filipelli & O'Donnell, is the likely greyhound to beat in the 660-yard Derby, which advances the top four finishers in each qualifier today (Races 4, 6, 8 and 10) to Wednesday's two races. The first four finishers in each Wednesday race enter the Derby; the remaining dogs go to the Consolation Derby. Both finals are June 27. The Derby winner earns $13,000. Tmc's Remedy is in Race 4 (8:15 p.m.).
With 12 performances left in the meet (the new season begins July 1), a showdown for top kennel was expected between Filipelli & O'Donnell and defending champion McAllister Kennels, which began the week one win behind. But the seven winners out of 11 starters Tuesday had Filipelli & O'Donnell in front 509-502 entering Friday.
"It was a tight race and probably would have been all the way through if something like that doesn't jump up," said Filipelli, 51. "Seven wins in a card gives you a huge advantage with just two weeks to go. It was phenomenal."
The seven winners — Tmc's Sultan, Kiowa Grand, Tmc's Trail Boss, Kiowa Shay P, Kauto Star, Hallo Miami Acre and Hallo Star Milla (dead heat) — entered with a combined 21.9 win percentage (63 victories from 288 starts). Their wins were at four grades. "I wasn't really surprised when the first two ended up winning," Filipelli said. "The rest of the night was like one surprise after another."
Wayne Ward (2009) and La Rosa Enterprises (2008) were the last kennels with at least six-win performances.
McAllister led the 16-kennel standings for 179 consecutive performances beginning Sept. 10. Filipelli & O'Donnell pulled even Feb. 14, overcoming a 28-win deficit. The two have since battled for the lead. Filipelli & O'Donnell entered Friday with a track-high 3,828 starts, 761 more than McAllister.
"The biggest difference is McAllister lost most of his key players: (stakes winners) Flyin Home Depot, Flying Mancini and Flying Macbeth," said Filipelli, who recently received 2008 All-America captain Hallo Gold Acre from kennel co-owners Barney and Pauline O'Donnell. "He lost a lot of quality; I've kept my dogs. When you can combine numbers to quality, it's a combination that you can hardly beat."
MassCap canceled: Suffolk Downs canceled this year's Massachusetts Handicap to save jobs and maintain daily purse levels at the East Boston circuit. It's the fourth time since 2003 that the MassCap, the state's biggest race, has been called off.
Investigation: Pennsylvania racing officials are investigating whether a veterinarian used a handgun to euthanize 4-year-old filly Rich and Mean at Philadelphia Park, a possible violation of track rules and industry standards. Dr. Thomas J. Lurito, who did not return calls from the Associated Press, is banned from the track pending the outcome of several reviews of the June 10 incident, state racing commission spokesman Chris Ryder said.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.