ST. PETERSBURG — Derby Lane is in a giving mood. Track announcer Jim Peake gave Flying Coal City his nickname, "The Coal Train." Tonight, the facility is giving patrons pinback buttons, depicting the McAllister kennel greyhound and a train with billowing smoke.
Flying Coal City, Derby Lane's leading winner and arguably one of the best dogs in the country, can give something back to his fans in the $50,000 Fall Sprint. A victory would be his 49th overall, third stakes win and raise his career earnings above $100,000 with a $22,000 first-place paycheck. He is expected to be the wagering favorite for his 38th consecutive race.
"This is huge for Coal City," Derby Lane spokeswoman Vera Rasnake said. "He's already recognized as one of the best greyhounds in America. With All-America (honors) being the top eight (dogs), he's definitely among that group. A win would sweeten the deal a lot and should help him get Rural Rube (National Greyhound Association award for best sprinter)."
Winner of the $64,000 Sprint Classic and $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge this year, Flying Coal City was the only greyhound to win three times in four qualifying rounds. He is the lone stakes winner in the eight-dog field and drew box 8 in Race 10 (about 10:11 p.m.). Kennel owner Malcolm McAllister seeks his 17th stakes victory at Derby Lane since 2007. Flying Coal City is trained by Barbara McAllister, Malcolm's wife, for owner Vince Berland.
There are other story line twists. Capabal kennel overcame the loss of the previous meet top winner, Aerial Battle (injured in August), and qualified Rc Out Of Site. He is one of the race's early-speed greyhounds along with McAllister's Flying Bergen and M's Free Hand of Floyd & Porter. M's Free Hand was the only dog without a qualifying win that has finished no worse than third in six previous starts. The last stakes win for Floyd & Porter came in 2007. Lester Raines, the only kennel with at least one stakes victory in each of the past five seasons, can extend its streak with Kiowa Lazy Lazy. He may be Flying Coal City's chief nemesis but had to win Wednesday to advance. Kiowa Lazy Lazy entered the Fall Sprint with five consecutive wins. He starts from the rail.
A stakes victory by Jack's Shortfuse would be Cal Holland kennel's first since 2005. Jack's Shortfuse was the other dog with multiple qualifying wins (two). Trainer John Graham goes for his first stakes win since joining O'Donnell kennel in July with Mohican Mink Mae and Tmc's Pistol. O'Donnell, previously with former kennel co-owner John Filipelli (now in Iowa), leads with seven stakes wins in the past two meets. Kiowa Lazy Lazy and Tmc's Pistol were sired by the late Dodgem By Design, the nation's leading stud dog since 2009. He died Sept. 24 of natural causes at age 10.