ST. PETERSBURG — Flying Coal City waited for his turn on the Derby Lane paddock scale, where his weight would be taken before that night's race.
By appearance, he's just another average dog.
But whether it be a powerful rush out of the starting box or a dynamic rally down the stretch, Flying Coal City can tip the scales in his favor. A three-time stakes winner this season for owner Vince Berland, Flying Coal City can put an exclamation point on a superb year in the $75,000 660-Yard Challenge, which begins tonight at Derby Lane.
The McAllister kennel 76-pounder appears to be in top form after being sidelined with a minor injury to his right front shoulder, the same shoulder in which the 33-month-old tore a muscle and missed last year's 660-Yard Challenge. Since returning Nov. 16, he has won three straight races: two schooling sprints and his 50th career victory at 660 yards.
"I gave him off five weeks, and he's 100 percent (healthy)," kennel owner Malcolm McAllister said.
McAllister believes Flying Coal City has the inside track to two postseason honors: captain of the All-America team and the Rural Rube award for best sprinter in America. He also could be the national win leader. With 42 this year, Flying Coal City, trained by Malcolm's wife, Barbara McAllister, trails Palm Beach's Where's Big Cash by three.
Flying Coal City's stakes wins have been at 550 yards: $64,000 Sprint Classic, $50,000 Fall Sprint and $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge. He has finished second in two 660-yard stakes, $80,000 Distance Classic and $30,000 St. Petersburg Derby.
"A lot depends on how he goes through the rounds," Malcolm said, "and if he's got anything left in the tank."
The 660-Yard Challenge comprises four qualifying rounds over 12 days. Tonight's qualifiers are Races 4, 6, 8 and 10. The eight greyhounds with the most points advance to the Dec. 18 final. The $33,500 first-place prize is Derby Lane's largest.
Flying Coal City drew Race 10 (10:11 p.m.) and is one of four greyhounds coming off wins, including Greta's Cryhondo (Capabal kennel) and Kelsos Ace High (Lester Raines) in Race 6 and Revvin's Revenue (Magic City-Mighty Fine) in Race 4.
THOROUGHBREDS: Tampa Bay Downs opens its 85th season Dec. 11. Five graded races highlight the Oldsmar meet topped by the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby, which was elevated to Grade II status on Thursday.