Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

As one job ends, another begins for Derby Lane trainer

ST. PETERSBURG — Once Wayne Ward Kennel owner Julia Ward decided it was time to leave Florida, Derby Lane trainer John Graham began to see his 22-year vocation with the operation based in Abilene, Kan., vanish.

Needing to find work in an industry with limited opportunities, he had few career cards. A king and a queen ended his search.

Graham, 50, starts three greyhounds in his final stakes for Wayne Ward in tonight's first round of the St. Petersburg Derby. Ww Lucky Tinker, Ww Site On Tally or Ww's Revamped can give Graham his third Derby title since 2005, but he says beating co-favorites Flying Coal City (McAllister Kennel) and Tmc's Remedy (Filipelli & O'Donnell) may be asking too much.

Asking for a job wasn't.

When Ward announced she was ending a 20-year association with Derby Lane on June 30 at the conclusion of the season, Graham benefited from Filipelli & O'Donnell dissolving on the same date. With John Filipelli starting his own operation, Miami residents Barney and Pauline O'Donnell needed a trainer for their St. Petersburg booking. Graham got the nod.

"Barney is the king and Pauline is the queen of this business," Graham said. "They have done a good job of managing their empire. They race everywhere, have a lot of dogs and do well everywhere."

Ward is pulling her final Florida booking because the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist approved a gambling compact with the Seminole Indian tribe April 20, limiting gambling options for parimutuel sites. A decline in wagering has dented Derby Lane's purse structure, and though the track is supplementing purses, it can't keep pace with other facilities. Ward is dispersing most dogs to casino tracks Bluffs Run in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Wheeling Island in West Virginai.

"I don't blame the Wards as much as I blame the Legislature for giving everything to the Indians," Graham said. "It appears things are going to be tough in Florida for at least five years."

Graham, a St. Petersburg resident, has handled Wayne Ward's dogs at Key West, Miami, West Palm Beach, Tampa and St. Petersburg. Wayne Ward won the kennel title at the Tampa at Derby Lane meet that ended Dec. 30 and is fourth in the current 16-kennel standings.

"I'm real appreciative to the Wards for 22 years and certainly appreciative to the O'Donnells with the new opportunity," he said. "I promised them they would not be sorry (for the hire). My wife (Kathi) summed it up, saying, 'It was like a gift from heaven.' Jobs like this never come up. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Qualifying is tonight and Wednesday for the 660-yard $30,000 Derby and $10,000 Consolation Derby, both June 26. "Flying Coal City and Tmc's Remedy are the two to beat," Graham said.

As one job ends, another begins for Derby Lane trainer 06/18/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 18, 2010 8:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  2. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  3. Rays journal: Cesar Puello, who has one major-league game, claimed off waivers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Looking to add punch to their right-handed lineup, the Rays claimed OF Cesar Puello off waivers Saturday from the Angels.

  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Mariners game

    The Heater

    SS Adeiny Hechavarria doesn't always look like he's going hard, but he showed impressive reactions Saturday in reversing field to catch a ball that clanked off the catwalk then firing to second to double up Guillermo Heredia on an attempt to tag up.

  5. Bucs journal: Simeon Rice gives master class on sacks to defensive ends


    TAMPA — As the Bucs seek their first 10-sack season from a player since Simeon Rice in 2005, who better to help that cause than Rice himself?

    Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers great Simeon Rice works with defensive end Noah Spence (57) after practice at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.