ST. PETERSBURG — With Jack's Shortfuse performing at her best, Septemberfest has added zest for kennel owner Cal Holland Sr.
The third round of the $50,000 Fall Sprint is tonight at Derby Lane, and Jack's Shortfuse tries to light up the greyhound track's tote board again. She is the improbable co-leader with All-America contender Flying Coal City atop the stakes standings, each with two victories and 32 points.
"I don't know what's turned her around," Holland said. "I wish I knew."
September has been eventful for Holland, 65. He celebrated his 47th wedding anniversary with wife Brenda Holland, whose birthday was a week earlier. His son, Cal Holland Jr., got married. Today, Holland is planning a birthday party for great-grandson Michael McAuliffe, 4.
Jack's Shortfuse has provided more memories. An adequate finish, either in Race 6 (8:55 p.m.) or in Wednesday's final qualifier, will ensure a berth in the championship race Oct. 2. Holland's last stakes win came in 2005 with Rambition in the $10,000 Matinee Idol.
Jack's Shortfuse, a 27-month-old female out of a litter by Flying Stanley and Leta's Shadow, was Holland's only Fall Sprint starter. She entered the 550-yard event on a 15-race losing streak, longest in the 32-dog field. But Jack's Shortfuse won her first two qualifiers, paying $64.20 for a $2 ticket in a box-to-wire debut Sept. 18 and returning $33.80 on Wednesday by overcoming a 4-length deficit.
"She has a lot of early speed but hasn't been getting out of the (starting) box very well," Holland said. "She's running back to her potential. I'm not really surprised (she's doing this well)."
Owned by Colorado resident Michael Cassidy, Jack's Shortfuse won three consecutive races before losses began to mount July 19. She finished in the money (top four) eight times in 15 subsequent starts but dropped from Grade A to B in her final race preceding the Fall Sprint.
"I guess she was just resting herself," Holland said, laughing. "I haven't really done anything different with her."
Jack's Shortfuse has raced in three stakes, reaching the finals twice. Her best finish has been fourth in the $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge on June 5. She is trained by Justin Holland, whose sister, Jenna Holland, also works in the kennel. They are Holland's grandchildren.
Flying Coal City remains the stakes favorite, the elder Holland said. The McAllister kennel dog clocked a season's best time of 30.21 seconds Wednesday. He drew Race 10 (10:11 p.m.).
Four greyhounds were injured in the opening rounds. Mohican Iams Joe and Special Purpose are expected to miss considerable time with leg issues. Ls Jack Williams and Waubun Queen B have injured toes.
NOTEworthy: Former Alderson kennel trainer John Farmer has joined Royal Racing Team.