ST. PETERSBURG — After making the trophy presentation to Flying Coal City's winning connections in the $50,000 Fall Sprint on Oct. 2, Vey Weaver thought his night was complete.
The Derby Lane president and chairman of the board was stopped on the tarmac by a patron who had special words for Flying Coal City. "He is the Secretariat of greyhound racing," the man said. Weaver smiled.
Tonight, Flying Coal City can earn his 50th career victory in Race 8 (9:33 p.m.). It will be his 79th start, all at Derby Lane. The three-time stakes winner is returning to the distance course in preparation for the $75,000 660-Yard Challenge, the track's final 2010 stakes that begins Dec. 4.
"Coal City has done everything we've asked and then some," kennel owner Malcolm McAllister said. "He'll go inside or outside, he's very smart and he's very fast. That's why I say he's the best dual-distance dog in the nation, because he can run just the same on the backside (660 yards) as he can at 550. Not many dogs can do that."
The 31-month-old male from a litter by Kiowa Sweet Trey and Flying Crestline has won at least 60 percent of his races at two distances: 31 of 48 at 660, and 18 of 30 at 550. Owned by Vince Berland of Abilene, Kan., Flying Coal City surpassed $100,000 in career earnings in the 550-yard Fall Sprint. He stumbled at the start, but overtook pace-setter Tmc's Pistol (J.E. O'Donnell Jr. kennel) in mid-stretch to win by 21/2 lengths. Earlier, he captured the $64,000 Sprint Classic and $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge.
"I told Vince that he was bred for this track," McAllister said. "He knows it's his domain, his kennel, his track. The surface here is perfect for him."
Trainer Barbara McAllister, Malcolm's wife, said Flying Coal City is invaluable.
"It's what keeps us here," she said. "Even though you know you've got the best dog in the race, you can't always win the race. I get nervous before every stakes race; it's just the buildup, the pressure. When he wins, it's a relief."
An uneventful trip aided Flying Coal City in the Fall Sprint.
"If he doesn't get around clean (on the first turn), Pistol wins the race," Malcolm McAllister said. "Pistol didn't let up one bit, but Coal City is a strong, strong dog coming down the stretch."
J.E. O'Donnell Jr. trainer John Graham paid Flying Coal City the ultimate compliment.
"That was the only dog in America that could have beaten (Tmc's Pistol)," Graham said. "He got on him right in the first turn and stayed on him until he's by him a few yards from the finish line. I knew we weren't going to come up short, but (Flying Coal City) is just so strong that it makes (other) dogs look short."
NOTEWORTHY: The National Greyhound Association fall meet begins Monday at Abilene.