ST. PETERSBURG — Chalk one up for the little guy.
For the first time in more than a decade, Capabal kennel is challenging for the win title at Derby Lane. It is a remarkable turnaround for the operation that has been predominately in the lower half of the standings the past 13 meets.
"We've just come up with some really good dogs," Capabal owner Henry Parker said.
"We've got a couple of mom-and-pop operations that have raised a couple of nice litters. A few kennels operate big numbers, moving dogs in and out. We don't move through a lot of dogs."
Capabal, which hasn't finished in the top five since the 2004-05 season, has been Derby Lane's win leader since Jan. 7.
Entering Friday, Capabal topped the 17-kennel standings with 224 victories, 24 ahead of D'Arcy and Patriot. The kennel has 77 wins against stakes and Grade A competition. The meet ends June 30.
Joey Ice, Jw Kapuna Magic, Jw B Ward, Beware of Phog and Jw Counsel rank in the top 10 in wins for Capabal. Joey Ice, the meet's win leader (26) and winner of the $64,000 Sprint Classic, had a 12-race win streak from March 22-May 13.
Joey Ice is expected to be Capabal's entry in the $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge. Qualifying is Wednesday night for the June 7 finale.
Jw B Ward, winner of the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile and $10,000 Matinee Idol, became the first dog since 2006 to eclipse a 30-second clocking on the 550-yard course at 29.99 seconds on May 14.
Capabal is challenging the best win percentage by a top kennel since 2004-05, when it finished second to Bahama Mama. Capabal has a 19.6 win percentage this season, second to McAllister kennel's 20.2 during 2007-08.
Since 2004-05, Capabal has lost to the meet's championship kennels by an average of 127 victories with an average finish of 10th place in the standings.
"I'm surprised someone hasn't blown on by me," Parker said. "I've got kennels that have beaten me by 500 starts."
Capabal has 1,145 starts, 598 behind Patriot. Capabal's primary dog suppliers are Walter Wasik of Stafford, Texas, and John and Dawn Bladen of Blair, Okla. Joey Lingle, also from Blair, owns Joey Ice.
The Capabal staff is loaded with experience. Parker, 58, began working with greyhounds at 16 as a lead-out at defunct Hinsdale Greyhound Park in New Hampshire.
Trainer Belinda Parker, Henry Parker's ex-wife, got involved with dogs at an early age and once was involved with standardbreds. Assistant Gudrun Scheider raced dogs in Germany.
"It would be good (to win the title)," Henry Parker said.
"We've got really good dogs, and patience is a big deal when you have to give a dog time off for an injury or something — just like any athlete."
MORE DERBY LANE: Gary Buckmaster joined Nova kennel recently as the trainer. … The Monday schedule now features evening racing instead of matinees.