ST. PETERSBURG — Kennels look at stakes races as their meat and potatoes. Big expectations. Big opportunities. Big money.
In the next 12 months, Derby Lane will run 11 stakes races totaling $375,000. Those races are the fuel that pumps life into the 16 greyhound operations.
"Our stakes races are important to the kennels, which look forward to running for that additional money," track spokeswoman Vera Rasnake said. "McAllister kennel, which just retired, spent years (at Derby Lane) grabbing the lion's share. Our stakes-race schedule was one of the biggest draws (for McAllister) coming here."
The first three stakes, all in their seventh year, are part of the Tampa at Derby Lane meet that concludes Dec. 30. The races are the $50,000 Fall Sprint on Sept. 21-Oct. 5, the $20,000 Fall Juvenile on Oct. 19-Nov. 2 and the $75,000 Holiday Distance Challenge on Nov. 30-Dec. 14.
The format for each event features 32 greyhounds, which must endure four qualifying rounds to reach the final. The Fall Sprint and Fall Juvenile will be contested at 550 yards. The Holiday Distance Challenge, a 660-yard test, carries the track's largest first-place prize, $33,500.
"The hot-shot pups can go right into the Fall Sprint, and some of the other ones that might be maturing will be ready for the Fall Juvenile," Rasnake said. "The Fall Juvenile final is on (thoroughbred racing's) Breeders' Cup day. We usually have good crowds for that, and it gives us a double-stakes weekend.
"After the sprint races, anybody that's got a dual-distance greyhound can try the Holiday Distance Challenge. There's plenty of time to do that."
No dates have been released for the stakes races that take place at the Derby Lane meet from Jan. 1 to June 30. The races are the $80,000 Distance Classic, the $64,000 Sprint Classic, the $40,000 St. Petersburg Derby (includes Consolation Derby), the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile, the $10,000 Matinee Idol, the $8,000 Inaugural and the $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge.
Since 2007, no kennel has won more stakes than McAllister. The four-time kennel champion won 25 stakes totaling more than $880,000 in first-place added money. Derby Lane stakes races were wide open in 2012-13. The only favorite in 11 stakes to win was Se's Home Owner, who captured the Distance Classic on April 6 for Red Oak Racing.
HORSES: Tampa Bay Derby winner Verrazano is the 9-5 morning-line favorite against Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow and five other rivals Sunday in the Grade I $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. Verrazano, whose only loss in six races has been a 14th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby in May, will break from post 7 under John Velazquez for trainer Todd Pletcher. The 3-year-old colt by More Than Ready is closing in on $1 million career earnings. The Haskell is Race 13 at around 6:20 p.m.