ST. PETERSBURG — Imagine all three Capabal kennel greyhounds battling for the lead as they enter the stretch Monday in the $20,000 Remembrance Stakes at Derby Lane.
"I'd feel pretty good (if that were to happen),'' kennel owner Henry Parker said. "I just want to win it. … I'm not looking to run 1-2-3. Anything else (after a win) would be a plus.''
For the first time in his career, Parker, 62, a native of Plattsburgh, N.Y., will have three starters in a stakes championship race when Brian Ernst, David Lopez and John Valazquez — pups all named after thoroughbred jockeys by New England breeder-owner Raymond Thurber — run in the inaugural edition of the 550-yard event.
The Remembrance, which pays $9,000 to the winner, will be the feature (Race 10, 2:47 p.m.) on the Memorial Day matinee performance. The Remembrance replaced the former Fall Juvenile Stakes — a race that Parker won in its final two years with Lagro Cc Nance (2015) and Joey Rightywhity (2014).
When entries were submitted for the Remembrance, Parker did not expect to have all three dogs move through four qualifying rounds and advance to the finale.
"But I kept drawing (good) post positions (in qualifying), and I became pretty confident,'' Parker said.
Brian Ernst and John Valazquez tied for second in the point standings with 50, eight behind leader Rt's Bo Jangles of Derby Lane's leading kennel, Cal Holland. David Lopez was fifth with 32.
"Valazquez is kind of streaky,'' Parker said. "He's like Joey Ice (2014 All-America team captain and Rural Rube winner as the nation's top sprinter). … When he gets on a roll, he's pretty fast.
"Brian Ernst has got a little finish to him, too. I've got to get David Lopez outside, and get him out (in front).''
Brian Ernst and David Lopez are littermates by Thurber's stud dog, Street Credit.
Of the three Capabal entries, John Valazquez has the most familiar name. He is named after two-time Kentucky Derby winner and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, and opened the Remembrance with three consecutive victories.
"The key is I don't want to get those dogs jammed down on the inside,'' Parker said. "They can run from the inside, but it's been tough. (Running) from the outside, I'll be pretty happy.''
Belinda Parker trains the Capabal trio.
The only time that Henry Parker has finished 1-2 in a Derby Lane stakes race was in the 2011 Fall Juvenile, where 11-1 shot Jw Rapid Strike rallied to beat Se's Chewie by a neck.
The field from the rail: John Valazquez, David Lopez, Fiesta Ironman (Burk Greyhounds), Brian Ernst, Rt's Bo Jangles, Ozark Mike (Burk Greyhounds), Poweroftraction (Nova) and Jeff Sessions (Farmer Racing).
"Funny things happen in finals,'' Parker said. "But I've won quite a few stakes races if things go good. If you don't get there, you don't have a chance.''