ST. PETERSBURG — It is feeding time at Derby Lane.
Kennel owner Jim Abernathy takes a break, opens the crate door to Husker Magic, and puts his hand in front of the greyhound.
"I do a certain thing with her every day," Abernathy said. "She just looks at me, and I let her lick my hand that I'm feeding with. She likes the grease and everything on it."
It is a special privilege for a special talent.
Husker Magic has taken Abernathy on quite a ride. She is the track's top dog, a recent winner of 11 consecutive races. A seven-race win streak preceded that, a first for Abernathy, 48, a third-generation dog man.
"I've won some of the biggest stakes races and broken track records," he said. "But I've never had a dog win six in a row before."
Husker Magic, a 28-month-old female, is one of nine dogs out of the first litter whelped by Casino Zada, who raced for Abernathy in 2010 when a leg injury ended her career. Terry Haber, Arthur Kaufman and Abernathy own the litter, one of Derby Lane's best in a decade. The dogs have combined for 111 victories with eight reaching Grade A, six winning at the top level. Husker Magic leads with 36 victories from 62 career starts. She has advanced to the final in all three stakes-race appearances, highlighted by a second in the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile on May 17.
"I would say this litter has won more races in the first six months (this year) than any litter in the United States," Abernathy said.
Husker Magic's 11-race win streak from June 27-Aug. 2 fell four short of the track record believed to be shared by Understood (1982) and Membership (1958). But it did top the 10 consecutive wins by her sire, Rhythmless, a two-time, stakes-placed sprinter at Wheeling Island, W.Va.
Husker Magic's double-digit streak showed her dominance. She faced 77 combined foes, beat every one out of the starting box, and never trailed in a race — winning by 45 total lengths. She also clocked four of the meet's six fastest times at 550 yards, including a career-best 30.13 seconds.
"Early speed, that's what you want," Abernathy said. "That's nothing you can train. … That's all on the dog."
Kayruth Abernathy, Jim's wife, trains the litter that has stopped three recent win streaks by defending top dog Joey Ice. Husker Nijash ended the Capabal kennel standout's 11-race win streak, and Husker Magic and Magic Husker snapped four-race win streaks.
Magic Husker is the litter's second-best winner at 16, followed by Husker Anuzha (15) and Husker Zhivany (12). Magic Husker is tied for second in the Derby Lane win standings; Husker Zhivany has clocked the meet's fourth fastest 550 time at 30.22.
"(The litter) is a lot like their mother," Jim Abernathy said. "It's been great to get a dog like Husker Magic. She might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."