ST. PETERSBURG — When Friecracker Gus arrived at Derby Lane, he was recognized more for a typo than his talent. That could change tonight in the 73rd edition of the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile Stakes.
The Hambleton kennel greyhound has quite a history. His sire, Bob's Skeet, was the All-America team captain and Rural Rube award winner (nation's best sprinter) in 2006. He raced in the inaugural Derby Lane Million that year, finishing fifth.
The dam, Fire Storm Drive, never ran an official race.
"She was a fighter (interfered with other dogs in training)," said kennel owner Jim Hambleton of Solomon, Kan. "She was the fastest one in her litter, but she's been invaluable to us (in breeding)."
Friecracker (pronounced Fry-crack-er) Gus will never be like his littermates, all named Firecracker: Ari, Bea, Ben, Faye and Sue. The first name misspelling was missed by Hambleton and the National Greyhound Association.
"We didn't catch (the typo) until after we shipped him to Derby Lane," Hambleton said. "We didn't want to go through the changes and said, 'Well, it might be a good omen.' And maybe it was."
This is the first stakes for Friecracker Gus, whose second birthday is Wednesday. The 73-pound male was the top qualifier and seeks his ninth win in his 37th career start.
"Gus is real laid-back," kennel manager-trainer Doug Flint said.
"You almost have to wake him up to get him out of his crate. Derby Lane is a long (track), and you need a dog with some bottom. He can come from behind to win."
Friecracker Gus drew Box 4 for Race 8, a 550-yard event that starts at 9:33. Other starters from the rail: Flying Lone Wolf (McAllister kennel), Mrl No Doubt (Lester Raines), Call Me Ishmael (D'Arcy), Windy Brandi (Cal Holland), Backwood Alva (Campbell), Flyin Commandant (Red Oak) and Decadent Amber (Abernathy).
First place pays $9,000.
High Noon Renegade (Nova), a 2011 All-America team choice and the only dog to win the Gold Trophy and Sprint Classic in the same year (2011), will be honored before the race.
HORSES: Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar closed its 86th season May 6 with daily average all-source handle down 10.92 percent from the previous year at $4,149,073.
On-track daily handle was $219,842, down from $226,855. Average daily attendance was 3,148, down from 3,195, and the average field in a race was 8.54 horses, down from 9.11.
Increases were in total on-track wagering (including simulcasts), $40,245,422, up almost 3 percent; average daily purses, $162,320, a $1,376 rise, and horse claims, 279, a 20 percent increase. A record 262 turf races were run.
PREAKNESS: Cozzetti, third in March's Tampa Bay Derby, starts on the outside for today's Triple Crown race. … Derby Lane, the Downs and Tampa Greyhound Track open at 10 a.m.