ST. PETERSBURG — He is a superstitious septuagenarian who often switches conversation subjects before his standout runs in a significant sprint race.
Nova kennel owner Hans Limmer will talk about dinner plans or his life experiences, anything to divert attention from his Sprint Classic winner Hi Noon Renegade, the favorite for tonight's $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile at Derby Lane.
The 72nd annual event (Race 8, 9:33 p.m.) could make history. Hi Noon Renegade can become the first greyhound to win the Gold Trophy and the 36-year-old Sprint Classic in the same year; Nova attempts to become the first kennel to win the Gold Trophy three consecutive seasons.
"The old saying is the next race is always the toughest race," said Limmer, who won the Gold Trophy with Ls Jack Williams and Hi Noon Rembrant. "Lady luck plays a big factor. You get a little bump and you're out. I don't think (Hi Noon Renegade) has to prove much more. He won the Sprint, and he won so many races after that. … He's a true champion."
Hi Noon Renegade drew the No. 6 box for the 550-yard event. Other starters from the rail: Kentucky Fire (Cal Holland kennel), Kiowa Rousey (J.E. O'Donnell Jr.), Speedy Sprocket (Royal Racing), Brother Buck (D'Arcy), Longo (Floyd & Porter), Tortuga Trophy (D'Arcy) and Kiowa Grand Gary (Patriot).
The only dog to win the Gold Trophy and Sprint Classic has been ZEZ kennel's Flying Newport, who did it in different years (Gold Trophy in 2003, Sprint Classic in 2005). Nova is one of five kennels with back-to-back Gold Trophy titles, matching Robert Thorne (2001-02), Keith Dillon (1981-82), G.A. Alderson (1979-80) and C.A. Rhodes (1941-42).
Trained by Rosa Gibbs for owner Charles Haliburton III of Centennial, Colo., Hi Noon Renegade swept all four Gold Trophy qualifiers to extend his career-best winning streak to eight. He has 16 wins in his past 21 starts, raising his career record to 23 wins in 43 races. "He's gotten better and better," Limmer said. "He's an easygoing dog with a good head on his shoulders. Rosa has done a good job with him."
Hi Noon Renegade was brought to Derby Lane last year from Texas. He is a 25-month-old male out of a litter from Dodgem By Design and Bryan's Baby. Dodgem By Design, a 2002 All-America team member, won the Sprint Classic. Bryan's Baby is a sister to 2005 All-America sprinter Joe Hearns, a stakes winner and former Tampa Greyhound Track wins leader who was sixth in the 2006 Derby Lane Million.
NOTES: Flying Coal City of McAllister kennel ran his third schooling race Friday since returning from an injured shoulder. … Tracks open early today for the Preakness Stakes undercard at Pimlico in Baltimore. Derby Lane and Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar open at 10 a.m., Tampa Greyhound at 10:15.