ST. PETERSBURG — Greyhounds break in unison from the 550-yard starting box, sprinting 150 yards into the first turn. The long straightaway and stretch are Derby Lane trademarks.
"It gives a dog that's got good stretch hustle an opportunity to hit the turn clean," Derby Lane racing secretary Jerry Miller said. "Typically, a dog that can close well at the end of the race will be successful here."
That backdrop has made Derby Lane the antithesis of some state tracks. Entering Friday, the highest percentage of 550-yard winners at St. Petersburg came out of the No. 8 box, farthest from the rail. At other facilities, the No. 1 box dominates. Derby Lane's outside post had produced 115 wins. No. 7 was second with 104. The Nos. 1 and 3 boxes were next, each with 88. On the 660-yard course, where the starting box is near the first turn, the No. 1 box ranked third with seven wins, trailing No. 2 at 11 and No. 3 with 10. Twenty-three wins came from the other five boxes.
At Derby Lane's previous six-month meet, the No. 8 box also had the most 550-yard wins with 441, 63 more than at No. 1. At 660 yards, the four inside posts totaled 222 wins compared with 120 from the others.
The No. 1 box has ruled 550-yard races at other tracks. The inside box is first in wins at Orange Park in Jacksonville by a vast margin of 338, Flagler in Miami by 47, Palm Beach in West Palm Beach by 44 and Sanford-Orlando by 42. At those sites, the No. 1 box is either first or second in 660-yard wins.
FINAL NUMBERS: The state's parimutuel handle has fallen below $1 billion. According to statistics from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation-Division of Parimutuel Wagering, total handle for greyhound, thoroughbred, standardbred, quarter horse and jai alai sites for fiscal year 2009-10 (ending June 30) was $957,576,087, a decline of 13.61 percent from the past season. Dog wagering was off 14.80 percent at $291,794,435, while thoroughbred handle was $565,936,322, down 11.89 percent. State poker-room receipts rose 2.96 percent to $104,799,488. In the past five years, Florida's total handle is off 36.78 percent from $1,514,758,761; poker receipts are up 57.60 percent from $44,433,359.
Derby Lane reported total handle of $29,073,907 for 2009-10, down 12.96 percent. Tampa Greyhound Track, which races its six-month permit at Derby Lane, had a 13.30 percent decline at $26,832,125. Wagering at Tampa Bay Downs, the Oldsmar thoroughbred oval, was off more than $10 million at $91,358,757, down 9.94 percent.
Derby Lane is No. 1 among area parimutuels in poker and fifth among 23 state card rooms with $7,290,453 in gross receipts, flat from the previous year. Tampa Greyhound Track poker was off 5.39 percent at $2,257,756. Tampa Bay Downs' poker room was down 2.85 percent at $4,221,956.