ST. PETERSBURG — Derby Lane's theme for tonight is the Eighties.
The longest continuously operated greyhound track in the world, Derby Lane celebrates the first weekend of its 87th season with the oldest dog stakes in North America, the 87th edition of the $8,000 St. Petersburg Inaugural.
"It's exciting," track spokeswoman Vera Rasnake said. "The Inaugural is big because many of the dogs that we've showcased have usually won national titles."
The Inaugural, the 550-yard feature in Race 10 (10:11 p.m.), will be missing one of the industry's biggest stars. Nova kennel All-America candidate Hi Noon Renegade, who won 40 races and two stakes last year, has been scratched with a split web. The 2011 Sprint Classic and Gold Trophy Juvenile winner appeared to sustain the injury in Wednesday's qualifying.
With Hi Noon Renegade out, newcomer Tiger Boy is expected to be favored to give two-time defending kennel champion McAllister its fourth Inaugural win in five years. Tiger Boy won Wednesday in his first Derby Lane start. The Barbara McAllister-trainee came from Naples-Fort Myers and, in March, became the youngest dog (17 months) to win the $75,000 Hollywood World Classic at Mardi Gras in Hallandale Beach.
Tiger Boy drew box-5. The rest of the field from the rail: Tmc's Pistol (J.E. O'Donnell Jr. kennel), Sovereign Beauty (D'Arcy), Danicas Go Daddy (Floyd & Porter), Jw Ricochet (Capabal), Gabby's Jentowin (Alabama), Kentucky Grace (Cal Holland) and semifinal upset winner Hwj Isabelle (Hambleton). First place pays $3,200.
MEET LEADERS: For the second consecutive time, McAllister won the Derby Lane kennel title by one victory at the meet that concluded Dec. 31, edging Hambleton 270-269. It was the fourth overall championship for McAllister. Kentucky Fire (Cal Holland) was the top dog with 18 wins, one more than Hi Noon Renegade and Kiowa Tori Tech (McAllister). The best times were clocked by Sing In Church (Patriot) at 30.19 seconds at 550 yards and Storm Rush (Hambleton) at 37.04 at 660.
HORSES: It's Never to Late attempts to surpass $400,000 in career earnings as the 5-2 morning-line choice in the $60,000 Pelican (Race 8, 3:42 p.m.) at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar. The lifetime winner of 15 races faces eight sprinters in the 6-furlong test for 4-year-olds and upward. … Jamie Ness, the Downs five-time defending leading trainer, finished second in North America in wins in 2011. Ness had a career-best 330 victories. Steven Asmussen was first at 348. Ness also was 17th in purse earnings with a lifetime-high of $4.670,260. Midwest Thoroughbreds, Ness' major client and two-time Oldsmar leading owner, led the nation with 418 victories and $6.307,278 in earnings. Downs leading jockey Leandro Goncalves was third with 298 wins behind Deshawn Parker's 400.