ST. PETERSBURG — The birthday boy didn't need a bunch of gifts Monday. Cal Holland Jr. already had received the perfect present.
Holland, 49, is back at Derby Lane, back as the manager for three-time kennel champion Patriot, and back with wife Joy and the rest of his family.
"I had enough of that wild and wonderful state," said Holland, referring to West Virginia, where he spent the past four months starting a kennel at Wheeling Island.
"I absolutely hated it there. I hated the weather. It was cold every single day from the time I got there until the time I left. … The track was hard on the dogs. I'm glad I'm back home."
Holland moved to Wheeling in late December for financial considerations. Joy went, too. It didn't take long for the bubble to burst.
Joy didn't like the area and told Cal she wanted to return to St. Petersburg. Cal supported her, and Joy got her previous job back in February as a counselor at a St. Petersburg clinic (she received a promotion this week).
Cal remained at Wheeling Island and ran the kennel for Patriot owner Vince Savill of South Easton, Mass., and breeder Tom Taplin of Abilene, Kan. For two months, the Hollands saw each other once, when Cal flew to St. Petersburg.
Finally, Cal told his bosses he had to get back to Derby Lane. The move took place recently when former kennel manager Doug Flint left the industry.
Cal's daughter, Jenna Holland, 21, is the Patriot kennel trainer, and stepdaughter Patricia Isaac, 21, is a helper. Cal's son, Justin Holland, is a Derby Lane fixture as the manager and trainer for Cal Holland kennel, owned by Cal's father.
Patriot is in a four-way battle for second place in the Derby Lane standings behind Capabal. The Wheeling Island operation ranks last in wins among 15 kennels.
Cal Holland Jr. remains involved in the Wheeling Island operation.
"I have to go (to West Virginia) once a month until the end of the year to take some dogs up and make sure the kennel is running good," he said.
Holland plans to break in pups at Derby Lane and send some to West Virginia once they have 20 to 25 starts, and transfer several top dogs to Wheeling Island, where he said casino-enhanced purses paid $197 a point last week, compared to about $62 at Derby Lane.
"I kept my salary, my wife got a promotion, and both of my girls are working for me," Holland said. "I couldn't be happier than what I am right now."
HORSES: Kid Cruz, who finished eighth in the Preakness Stakes on May 17 for majority owners Steven Brandt and Rick Boylan of St. Pete Beach, is expected to run in the Belmont Stakes on June 7 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
Kid Cruz finished 16 lengths behind California Chrome in the Preakness.
"We should have breezed him once (before the Preakness)," Brandt said. "He fell too far behind."