ST. PETERSBURG — The humble, quiet trainer at kennel No. 16 would prefer not to be seen or heard. Her greyhounds frequent the winner's circle. And when a rival kennel owner was asked the most fascinating story of the Derby Lane meet, it took three guesses to name the subject — and he once employed her.
If you don't know Danielle Asbury, boo on you.
Asbury, 27, the second-youngest trainer among the track's 16 kennels, has defied logic. She has been a trainer for only 23 months, but has Charter Kennel atop the Derby Lane standings.
"I'm happy," Asbury said. "But it's like, 'How is this happening?' "
Entering Friday, Charter had 178 wins, 16 in front of Wayne Ward. Fifty-four victories were at Grade A, 20 more than Lester Raines. Asbury, a Pinellas Park resident, is modest about her success. "I don't know why the dogs are running so good — just (feeding them) meat and meal," she said.
Charter charged into first place on July 30 and has been there since, winning at least 10 races in 11 of the meet's first 16 weeks. Charter's leading winners are Millys Uncle and Super Nickey, each with nine.
As Turbine Turns and Super Nickey are expected to be entered in Derby Lane's next stakes, the $20,000 Fall Juvenile set for Oct. 31-Nov. 14. Another standout in the 66-dog kennel is Djays Octane, the Razorback Stakes winner from Southland Park in West Memphis, Ark. He picked up his 45th career victory on Wednesday in his Derby Lane debut and is being prepped for the $65,000 660-Yard Challenge on Dec. 5-19. Asbury has never won a stakes.
Charter owner Rodney Cooley of Wheeling, W.Va., supplies most of the dogs.
"Charter has a unique setup to raise dogs themselves," Asbury's mentor, Derby Lane kennel owner-trainer James Campbell, said. "(Cooley) has one of the best organizations in the country, maybe the top."
Charter also has bookings at Southland Park, Wheeling Island and Flagler in Miami and is the win leader at the first two. Charter raced at Derby Lane from 1996-2004, winning the kennel title in 1998. It returned for the 2007-08 season, finishing fourth and third, respectively, in the past two meets.
Asbury, a native of Misawa, Japan, and daughter of an Air Force veteran, entered the business eight years ago as a lead-out at Wheeling Island. She later became a kennel assistant before moving to Florida. Asbury was employed in retail when she met Kathy Graham, wife of Derby Lane kennel owner-trainer John Graham.
"She had a dog truck and I told her I used to work at Wheeling," Asbury said. "That led me to Derby Lane."
Asbury served as an assistant to kennel owners John Filipelli, Malcolm McAllister and Tom La Rosa before going to Charter. "Compared to all these owners, I'm still like a kid … still very inexperienced," she said.