ST. PETERSBURG — Ken Lesperance did something he rarely does after Craigie Mr Venus did something he'd never done.
After Craigie Mr Venus' first career stakes win in the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile Stakes on May 24 at Derby Lane, the manager and trainer for Lester Raines Kennel talked to a reporter.
Standing nearby was wife and assistant trainer Jeanne, who was cooling off the sprinter with a water hose.
"I usually have Jeanne do all the interviews, because she's a good talker," Ken said.
The Lesperances were in a celebratory mood after Craigie Mr Venus dominated seven rivals in the 69-year-old event, Derby Lane's fourth oldest. The 26-month-old brindle male out of a litter by Dodgem By Design and Greys Starwishes had more experience, the best rush to the turn and a post position (No. 8) that favored outside runners.
Before Craigie Mr Venus got loose for a 6-length victory over Flyin Home Depot, 10 of the day's first 21 races were won by greyhounds in the eight box.
"The rail was kind of dead," Ken said. "I felt confident as long as they didn't tighten the track up. He won three times (in the series) from the eight hole."
The winning time of 31.04 seconds for 550 yards was the slowest in the past seven Gold Cups.
Craigie Mr Venus, third wagering choice at 9-2, rushed in front by 2 lengths approaching the first turn and got a break when Forest Dylan nudged Flyin Home Depot entering the backstretch.
"I was a little worried about how close Home Depot was behind him, but the (No.) 1 dog (Forest Dylan) took care of that going wide in the first turn," Jeanne said. "That's when I felt a sigh of relief."
Craigie Mr Venus and Ctw On The Plaza are the top sprinters in the 60-dog kennel, Jeanne said.
"(Venus) has come around since the stakes race started," Ken said. "He's got a lot of heart, and he's his own dog. He was more mature in the race, basically. That experience paid off.
"Winning is a feather in his hat; it's a steppingstone. He should have an above-average career. There are a lot of nicer dogs talent-wise, but he's a good, solid Grade A."
Craigie Mr Venus, winner for the 16th time in 51 starts, earned $9,000 for Oklahoma owner Steven Boyd. It was the second Gold Cup title for Lester Raines and first in 27 years for Ken. Lester Raines became the first kennel to win at least one stakes at the St. Petersburg track each year since 2006.
"Winning always feels good," Jeanne said.
More Derby Lane: The track begins its summer schedule Monday with eight weekly performances. The Monday matinee has been eliminated. Simulcast wagering and poker are not affected. … The kennel roster stands at 17 with today's departure of Wayne Strong Kennel. … The $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial begins qualifying Wednesday. The top four finishers in two semifinal races advance to the 550-yard final June 7. First place is worth $3,200.