ST. PETERSBURG — The composite list of greyhounds to win the $20,000 Fall Juvenile Stakes has been consistent throughout qualifying, captured titles in tight finishes and paid double digits to its supporters.
Director of racing Jerry Miller expects more of the same in the sixth annual event for pups that begins tonight at Derby Lane. The first of four qualifying rounds takes place in Races 4, 6, 8 and 10.
"There are good, quality puppies, and it is definitely wide open," Miller said. "I think this is going to be a tournament where you won't see someone win more than two rounds. When you get down to the finals, anything can happen … and usually does."
Eight of the 32 greyhounds will advance to the 550-yard championship race Nov. 10. The winner earns $9,000.
The Fall Juvenile has not been a favorite for the favorites. The only dog to win a crown as the wagering choice in the final has been Uss Gazillionair (2010), whose one-length victory matches Career Goals (2009) for the largest margin of victory. Jw Rapid Strike (2011) and Kelsos Hathaway (2008) won by a neck, and Flying Seward (2007) captured the inaugural race by a nose. The average finish of the favorites has been fifth, including two eighth-place showings. The winning dog has averaged a win payout of $15 for a $2 ticket.
It normally doesn't take long to spot potential Fall Juvenile winners. In the past three events, the eventual champion won an opening-round qualifier. And with the exception of Jw Rapid Strike's seventh-place finish last year in the third round, every champion has placed at least third in each qualifying round. Greyhounds earn 16 points for a victory.
"A (first-round) win is certainly going to bump you up (on the leaderboard)," Miller said. "I've got some dogs that are well-seasoned. And I've got some that are very young, but they're hitting their stride."
Lester Raines kennel has dominated the Fall Juvenile, winning three years in a row until Capabal broke through last season. "Lester Raines is just loaded," Miller said.
Lester Raines is one of six kennels with three starters: Kiowa Mad Hatter (Race 4, 8:18 p.m.), Four Onthe Floor (Race 6, 8:55) and Intentionally (Race 10, 10:11). Kennels Floyd & Porter, McAllister, Pauline O'Donnell, meet wins leader Patriot and Red Oak also entered three dogs. Alderson, Capabal and Marsella are not represented.
HORSES: The Breeders' Cup World Championships start Friday with six races at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. The event concludes with nine races Nov. 3, highlighted by the Grade I $5 million Classic. Simulcast wagering will be available both days at Derby Lane, Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar and Tampa Greyhound Track.