ST. PETERSBURG — When Paul Caple retired from the greyhound industry in 2010 and relinquished ownership of Capabal kennel to Henry Parker, he paid his sidekick the ultimate compliment. "Next to the word 'gentleman' in the dictionary is Henry," said Caple, of Tarpon Springs. "He's just a super individual."
Parker returned the favor Monday, on the eve of Caple's 74th birthday. Capabal clinched its first kennel title at Derby Lane, more than two decades after the men started the operation. "Paul is my best friend, and we both loved (winning the title)," Parker said. "It was a dream meet."
Capabal, which had lost to kennel champions by an average of 127 victories since 2004-05, rolled through the six-month meet. It never trailed over the final 198 performances (205 total), outlasting Lashmet in wins 263-249 among 17 kennels.
Its blueprint was quality. Led by top dog Joey Ice, Capabal had five of the meet's top 10 winners. Its dogs won three stakes, clocked the three fastest 550-yard times, and produced the most stakes and Grade A wins, 93 (Abernathy was second at 63). Capabal's win percentage of 19.6 was the second best by a kennel champion in a decade (McAllister was 20.2 in 2007-08). Capabal made 1,339 starts, 772 fewer than Patriot.
"We didn't have a million starts like some (kennels), and I thought someone would eventually pass us," said Parker, 58, of St. Petersburg. "It didn't happen."
Capabal became the first kennel since Bahama Mama in 2003-04 to hit a Derby Lane trifecta: kennel title, top dog and a meet-best time (Jw B Ward clocked 550 yards in 29.99 seconds). Odd Grayson of Abernathy had the best 660 time, 36.84.
Joey Ice won 31 of 39 starts, finishing worse than third only twice. His 79.5 win percentage was the best by a top dog since Cayman Went (83.7) in 2003-04.
Parker said others contributed to the title: trainer Belinda Parker and assistant Gudrun Scheider; main dog suppliers Walter Wasik of Stafford, Texas; John Bladen, Dawn Bladen and Joey Lingle, all from Blair, Okla.; and fans such as Michelle Grant, a regular Sunday kennel visitor. "I'm big into history," Parker said. "I'll remember this meet for a long time."
MORE DOGS: Farmer Racing is a new kennel at Derby Lane, replacing dissolved Marsella Racing. It is run by John Farmer, former trainer for Marsella. Campbell Racing, which last ran dogs June 14, also has been dissolved. Former kennel owner James Campbell now trains for Nova.
HORSES: The second Summer Festival of Racing at Tampa Bay Downs last Monday and Tuesday was a success. All-source handle for 16 races was $2,774,430 with the product simulcast to outlets outside the Oldsmar oval. Last year's Festival wagering was limited to track side fans, and the total handle was $124,054.