ST. PETERSBURG — Given one last chance to escape the doghouse, Flying Coal City sped around Derby Lane in a breathtaking way, and history followed.
The McAllister kennel greyhound recorded his 60th career victory Wednesday, but his preceding win was probably just as important. Needing a victory at Grade B to keep his racing career alive, Flying Coal City won the 550-yard race July 23 in a season-best time of 30.28 seconds. His margin of victory was 9 lengths, the same as in Wednesday's milestone Grade A win in 30.36, the meet's fourth-fastest time.
Flying Coal City, a five-time stakes winner and Triple Crown winner in 2010, had dropped to Grade B for the first time in 79 starts after returning recently from another shoulder injury. He finished a troubled second in that July 18 race, so leading kennel owner Malcolm McAllister gave the 76-pound dog a final opportunity before considering possible retirement.
"If he would have run second or third (July 23), I was going to pull his papers," McAllister said. "If he can't win a B, he can't win a stakes race. Now, I'm over the moon. He's definitely back. … He's a monster."
Before his Grade B victory, Flying Coal City had not won since taking the $8,000 Inaugural on Jan. 8, losing a career-high nine straight races. Flying Coal City's wins include 32 at Grade A and 22 in stakes. The 40-month-old male out of a litter by Kiowa Sweet Trey and Flying Crestline has earned $146,356 from 102 starts. He is trained by Barbara McAllister, Malcolm's wife, for owner Vince Berland of Abilene, Kan.
In 2010, Flying Coal City swept the industry's top awards: All-America captain, Rural Rube (best sprinter) and Flashy Sir (top distance dog). McAllister said his multi-distance standout will remain at 550 yards, and he expects him to try to defend his title in the $50,000 Fall Sprint, Sept. 17-Oct. 1.
"I know he's still got the tools," McAllister said. "This dog is going to make up for some (lost) time."
MORE DOGS: Derby Lane's two newest kennels are picking up the pace. Hambleton Racing, formerly Royal Racing Team, won 18 races from July 18-23, tying the track's fifth-highest weekly win total since the 2007-08 meet. During that span, Patriot (2010) and McAllister (2008) have recorded the most weekly wins with 23 apiece. McAllister had 19-win weeks twice (this year and in 2007). Led by trainer Doug Flint for owners James and Helen Hambleton of Solomon, Kan., Hambleton was in fourth place in the 16-kennel standings with 41 victories through Thursday, nine behind McAllister. Alabama Racing, a Daytona Beach-based operation, won a race on the first three performances this week, matching its win total of the previous 27 cards under owner-trainer Patricia Byers. Alabama lost its first 64 starts and later went 0-for-38.