ST. PETERSBURG — There is nothing like a stakes race to end the dog days of summer.
The second $50,000 Fall Sprint begins tonight at Derby Lane, the first stakes of the meet. Led by La Rosa Enterprises' Red Dirt Road, McAllister Kennels' Flying Macbeth and Magic City Kennel's Reward Trent, speed should be at a premium. "There's a lot of excitement in the kennels," track spokesman Vera Filipelli said. "The stakes gives everyone something to shoot for."
Thirty-two greyhounds are entered in the 550-yard event, with qualifying in Races 4, 6, 8 and 10. To make the Oct. 4 final, dogs will have to be among the top eight in accumulative points earned through four rounds. The field will be cut to 16 after Wednesday. First place is worth $22,000.
The Fall Sprint has several subplots. Red Dirt Road, the track-record holder for wins in a meet, is attempting to capture his second stakes of the year and boost his All-America chances. Trained by Kim McAuliffe, the T.L. Weaver Memorial winner clocked a season's best 30.10 seconds Tuesday. He is kennel operator Tom La Rosa's all-time win leader with 63, and was fourth in the '07 Fall Sprint, defeated by Flying Stanley. Kennelmate Kaias Sequoyah, a lifetime winner of 62 races, also is entered after finishing sixth last year. He is seeking his first stakes win.
Flying Macbeth can reach a milestone tonight in Race 8. The Barbara McAllister trainee is one away from his 60th lifetime win. Flying Macbeth finished fifth last year, and is winless in five career finals.
Reward Trent has been a surprise. Trained by Doug Flint, he is the meet win leader with 11. Reward Trent is four days shy of his second birthday, one of the event's youngest sprinters. Sire Trent Lee holds the track record at 550 yards (29.59 seconds).
"If you would have asked Randy (Finegan, Magic City owner) three months ago about him, he wouldn't have told you (Reward Trent) would have had this kind of early success," Filipelli said. "He has certainly come into his own."
Kiowa Ak Kieffer of Filipelli & O'Donnell goes for his 50th career win in Race 10.
HORSES: Two Breeders' Cup win and you're in challenges are today. Commentator is favored in the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap (Race 10, 5:47 p.m.) at Suffolk Downs in East Boston, and Jonesboro heads the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes (Race 8, 4:34 p.m.) at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City. … Macho Again leads the way in the Grade II $500,000 Super Derby (Race 11, 6:12 p.m.) at Louisiana Downs. … Calder has cut purses 17 percent and trimmed $1-million from its stakes program. Churchill Downs Inc., owner of the Miami Gardens track, cited a decline in overall handle.