ST. PETERSBURG — Sunday is play day for Joey Ice.
The minute that Michelle Grant — a St. Petersburg business proprietor and greyhound owner — enters Capabal kennel, Derby Lane's top dog can expect entertainment in the turnout pen, a camera focused on him, and a couple of his favorite doughnuts.
"Michelle is infatuated with him," Joey Ice owner Joey Lingle said. "She will play with him, take videos, and send me emails on everything he does. That's what makes it a different touch with Capabal kennel."
Joey Ice's latest win, his 28th in at the meet from 36 starts and first in his career from the No. 1 box, came Thursday. It raised his win percentage to 77.8, the highest since Cayman Went's 83.7 in 2003-04. Since then, only Flying Coal City (71.4 in 2010) has reached 70 percent. Overall, Joey Ice has won 37 of 70 races.
The 29-month-old male out of a litter by Kiowa Sweet Trey and Queen Rania, has drawn worldwide attention. Capabal owner Henry Parker says fans in Ireland watch his races on the Internet, and kennel assistant Gudrun Scheider knows people follow him in her native Germany and throughout Europe. The 550-yard specialist and winner of the $64,000 Sprint Classic has win streaks this year of 12 and nine under trainer Belinda Parker.
Lingle, 54, of Blair, Okla., plans to keep Joey Ice at Derby Lane. Lingle said he has rejected several "ungodly offers" to sell Joey Ice, and turned down requests from Southland Park dog men to move him to the West Memphis, Ark., track for higher purses. Breeders wanting to use Joey Ice for stud have also been denied.
"I think of it like (Joey Ice) was my kid, and doing super well in a school with a lot of friends and excelling at everything," Lingle said. "Then he had a chance to go to Harvard or MIT, where you chance him just being another dog in a bunch, and not having a Michelle come in on a Sunday to give him doughnuts.
"Joey Ice is going to get an opportunity to make the biggest name he can for himself, and then we'll look at a stud career — which is where he should make the most money later on."
Joey Ice was bred for $2,800 and has earnings of $49,000. The 75-pound dog will be Lingle's first meet-win leader, and a strong finish could give Lingle his first All-America runner.
Capabal is on the verge of a rare Derby Lane trifecta: leading kennel, top dog and a greyhound with a meet-best time. Capabal and Joey Ice hold comfortable leads in two categories, and Jw B Ward has the fastest 550-yard time at 29.99 seconds. The last kennel to lead all three categories was Bahama Mama in 2003-04.
"I never thought it would be possible," Henry Parker said, "but (Lingle) comes up with these kinds of dogs. It's a beautiful thing."