ST. PETERSBURG — The phone rings. Victor Hall is on one end. On the other is Vinny Savill, who is told that his Patriot kennel is the only Derby Lane operation with multiple qualifiers for the $64,000 Sprint Classic.
Hall, Patriot's kennel manager-trainer, might have more good news tonight for his boss from Massachusetts.
Kiowa Class King and Kiowa Jsk Gustaf are Patriot's K-factors in Derby Lane's richest 550-yard stakes (Race 10, 10:11 p.m.). The Sprint Classic, which carries a $25,000 first-place prize, appears to be a toss-up with only one stakes winner in the field.
"Everybody feels like they have a chance to get a piece of the pie," Hall said. "It's pretty wide open."
The 36th annual event is loaded with story lines. Kiowa Jsk Gustaf, who drew his preferred No. 1 post, came to Derby Lane in 2010 because Massachusetts voters banned dog racing in the state. Kiowa Class King (No. 3) entered the series with a nine-race losing streak. Owned by Greyhound Hall of Fame member Kay Smith of Oklahoma, the dogs have similar bios: Flying Penske is the sire, their career debuts came nine days apart, and one win separates their lifetime totals (Kiowa Class King leads with 25). The 41-month-old greyhounds have late-running styles.
This is the third stakes final for Kiowa Class King, who was third in the Matinee Idol and Night of Stars XXIII. All of his 146 starts have been at 550 yards. Kiowa Jsk Gustaf is making his stakes final debut. He has made 69 of 118 starts at 660 yards.
Aerial Battle, the qualifying leader, is expected to be the favorite from box 2. The 2010 Matinee Idol winner has never missed a final in seven stakes, and a victory would be the 50th in his career. The runnerup in last year's event, Aerial Battle has bounced back from an ankle stopper bone injury that often is career ending. The 2010 All-America second-team member has seven wins in 15 starts since returning in January for Capabal kennel owner Henry Parker.
"It looks like he's gotten stronger the last couple races," Hall said.
Another finalist is Odd Inspector, who was third last year as the favorite for Charter kennel. Backwood Cody will start. He was one of 46 dogs rescued from a fire 19 days ago by kennel owner James Campbell. Hi Noon Renegade (Nova), M's Free Hand (Floyd & Porter) and two-time stakes runnerup Tmc's Pistol (J.E. O'Donnell Jr.) round out the field.
More dogs: Flying Coal City of McAllister kennel swept the Rural Rube (top sprinter) and Flashy Sir (distance) awards for 2010, the National Greyhound Association announced Friday.
HORSES: WinStar Farm's Drosselmeyer makes his first start since winning the 2010 Belmont Stakes today in the $60,000 Challenger Stakes (Race 10, 4:50 p.m.) at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar. The field includes Grade III winners Colizeo, Let It Rock and Mad Flatter and 2010 Tampa Bay Derby runnerup Schoolyard Dreams.