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Late-season push spices up Derby Lane finale

ST. PETERSBURG — When the week started, stakes winners Craigie I Am Jak and Storm Rush were 1a and 1b in the category of main contenders for the $20,000 Fall Juvenile at Derby Lane.

Well, the landscape has changed — somewhat.

Eleven of the remaining 30 entries have won races since Monday. So tonight, the 550-yard event begins with kennels buzzing about more than a potential Craigie I Am Jak-Storm Rush showdown in the Nov. 12 finale.

"I've been happy with the performances of some of the other dogs this week," Derby Lane racing secretary Jerry Miller said. "I certainly do expect to see Storm Rush and Craigie I Am Jak making the final, but the other six dogs? Flip a coin."

The fifth annual event features four qualifying rounds. Tonight's qualifiers are Races 4, 6, 8 and 10. For many greyhounds, this will be their first stakes.

Not so for the co-favorites. Craigie I Am Jak, the meet's third-leading winner with 12 victories for Campbell Racing, won the $50,000 Fall Sprint on Oct. 1. Storm Rush took the $30,000 St. Petersburg Derby on June 25 for former Royal Racing (now Hambleton Racing). If either dog wins, it becomes the first Fall Juvenile champion with multiple stakes victories. First place pays $9,000.

Craigie I Am Jak (Race 4, 8:18 p.m.) and Storm Rush (Race 8, 9:33) have combined for 28 career wins.

"They're fairly well-experienced dogs that have the same style as far as finishing a race," Miller said. "It's a completely blind draw when we draw these rounds. So if Storm Rush and Craigie I Am Jak wind up drawing together once (and) maybe twice during the tournament, then getting down to the final eight is kind of wide open."

To be eligible for the Fall Juvenile, dogs had be less than 2 years old when they came to Derby Lane with a maiden victory from April 18-Oct. 2. They also have to be at Grade C or higher. Lester Raines, which has won the past three Fall Juveniles, is represented by littermates Frizzell (Race 4) and Felicitate (Race 8).

MORE DOGS: Aerial Battle of Capabal kennel has been retired to stud. A winner in 70 of 142 starts, Aerial Battle's highlights included a Matinee Idol title, a meet win crown and an All-America second-team selection in 2010. … D'Arcy kennel's Happy Stutz has become a crowd favorite. He weighs 96 pounds, believed to be the heaviest dog at Derby Lane.

HORSES: Rapid Redux held off Tampa Bay Downs trainer Jamie Ness' Rich Hero for his 19th consecutive victory Thursday at Laurel Park (Md.), tying Peppers Pride and Zenyatta for the North American record for most wins in a row. … Entries will be drawn Monday for the 28th Breeders' Cup world championships Friday and Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. All 15 races will be simulcast at Derby Lane, Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar and Tampa Greyhound Track.

Late-season push spices up Derby Lane finale 10/28/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 28, 2011 10:45pm]
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