ST. PETERSBURG — Cal Holland Jr. turned to his heart, not his head, in December when he joined Patriot kennel.
For eight years, he had been in a comfort zone as the trainer for Floyd & Porter kennel. Finally, he rose out of the comfy chair.
"I didn't really want to leave Randy (Floyd, the kennel co-owner)," Holland said. "But I've wanted to run a kennel and show my potential."
Holland, 47, showed his stuff as Patriot's manager-trainer, using "fun" as the common denominator. The kennel's record-setting dominance at the previous Derby Lane meet still has greyhound fans abuzz.
Patriot was first in every main category, including wins and purse earnings. Patriot smashed the track mark for most victories in a six-month meet with 333, eclipsing Lester Raines' 299 in 2010, and finished 63 in front of McAllister. Patriot collected $242,250 in purse earnings, $23,660 ahead of McAllister. The meet ended June 30.
"My goal when I took over was to make this fun," Holland said. "The dogs come first, and we blast rock 'n' roll music in the kennel. We do our work, show every dog attention, and take care of every single injury as soon as we notice it."
Kennel workers David Keck and Gloria Morse bought into Holland's program. Quality and quantity were key. Led by Grade A dogs Art Allen and Jim Mercedes, Patriot totaled 2,412 starts, 428 more than any other kennel. Art Allen, winner of the $10,000 St. Petersburg Consolation Derby, and Jim Mercedes tied for second in victories at 16 apiece, one behind Tiger Boy of McAllister. Patriot's win percentage was 13.8 with an in-the-money percentage (top-four finish) of 49.7.
Patriot recorded at least one victory in each of the meet's first 16 performances, and won a minimum of 10 races in 24 of the 26 weeks. Twice it won 19 races in a week. Patriot had multiple victories in 103 of 216 performances, including four five-win cards and 12 four-win performances.
"I've never seen anybody blow the doors in on these people like Patriot did these past six months," track racing secretary Jerry Miller said. "(Holland) killed them in starts, and he's certainly got the quality."
It was the largest win margin by a kennel since McAllister captured the 2007-08 crown. McAllister had 643 victories for a 218-win advantage, but that season's numbers were a year-round accumulation.
Patriot owner Vinny Savill of Whitman, Mass., claimed his second kennel title. Holland was recommended to Savill by former manager-trainer Victor Hall, who moved to Vermont.
"When I started with Patriot kennel, my goal was to win races and to win stakes," Holland said. "I want to show Patriot has just as good a dog as every other kennel that runs (at Derby Lane). This kennel had great potential when I got here. I hope it still has great potential for years to come."