ST. PETERSBURG — Ken Lesperance talked as he clutched the trophy, the one he received after Uss Gazillionair performed in the clutch.
The manager and trainer of Lester Raines kennel spoke about the final-turn bump Uss Gazillionair had to overcome, and the late kick required by his greyhound to win the $20,000 Fall Juvenile on Nov. 13. He noted it was the kennel's third straight victory in the 550-yard event for pups, extending its streak of winning a stakes at Derby Lane for the sixth consecutive meet.
Lesperance raced Uss Gazillionair's parents, Uss Raceway and Greys Torrington. Uss Raceway was considered an All-America candidate with Joe Hearns several years ago. Joe Hearns was selected to the 2005 All-America team, but Uss Raceway's racing career ended that year with a broken hock in morning schooling. In the Fall Juvenile, Uss Gazillionair and his brother, Uss Billionaire (third), finished ahead of two Joe Hearns offspring: Grady Judd (fourth) and Danicas Go Daddy (sixth).
"I thought Raceway was every bit as good as Joe Hearns," Lesperance said. "He had what it took to be an All-American."
Lesperance also recommended the breeding of Greys Torrington, a multidistance performer whose brother was Greys Huntington, the first dog in Derby Lane's opening 81 years to clock a sub-30-second time at 550 yards (29.86 seconds in his career debut).
Uss Gazillionair, starting from the No. 1 box, defeated Backwood Shyster of Campbell Greyhound Racing by a length. His momentum was interrupted briefly entering the stretch when he ran up on pace-setter Grady Judd. Uss Gazillionair's time of 31.09 seconds was the third fastest among 96 sprinters on the performance.
It was the first stakes win in two tries for the 26-month-old dog owned by Raines and Ron Wiltse. He was eliminated after four rounds in the $50,000 Fall Sprint on Sept. 29. Uss Gazillionair has 16 victories from 38 career starts. After Thursday, he was tied for second in the meet win standings at 13, five behind Flying Coal City of McAllister.
HOLIDAY SCHEDULE: Derby Lane will not have live racing on Thanksgiving but will offer an afternoon-evening doubleheader Friday. The facility will be open Thanksgiving for poker and simulcast wagering.