ST. PETERSBURG — The first time Ken Lesperance gazed at Uss Gazillionair, the pup could barely open his eyes. He was 3 weeks old and weighed 5 pounds.
Uss Gazillionair has grown up with eye-opening results. The 77-pound dog is approaching his second birthday, a budding standout for Lester Raines kennel. Displaying the early speed of his sire Uss Raceway and closing kick of dam Greys Torrington, Uss Gazillionair may be entered in his first stakes, the $50,000 Fall Sprint, beginning Sept. 18 at Derby Lane.
Co-owned by Ron Wiltse and Raines, Uss Gazillionair has stirred memories for Lesperance and wife Jeanne. Ken is the manager and trainer for the track's top kennel.
"We ran his mother and father both," Jeanne Lesperance said. "For this dog to come in and be out of the two we ran, it's become full circle for us."
There is a 75 percent chance Uss Gazillionair will join Kiowa Lazy Lazy as Lester Raines' top entries in the Fall Sprint, she said. Kiowa Lazy Lazy has won his past four races.
Uss Gazillionair is one of six littermates at Derby Lane. The 550-yard sprinter has won nine of 22 starts and finished in the money (top-four finish) 18 times. He broke his maiden in his career debut June 7. In his past seven wins, four at Grade A, Uss Gazillionair has come from off the pace.
"As he gets more mature, he's getting more of the early foot that his daddy had," Jeanne Lesperance said. "He's definitely got the bottom finish of his mother and his uncle, Greys Huntington. I would not count out that he'll eventually end up in three-eighths (660 yards)."
Uss Raceway was one of Derby Lane's top sprinters in 2004-05, winning his first eight career starts. He is the only dog in Jeanne Lesperance's 25-year career to go unbeaten up the graded ladder (maiden through A). Uss Raceway finished with 32 victories from 56 starts and advanced to the finals in four of five stakes races, never winning. His racing career ended with a schooling-related hock injury.
Greys Torrington, a multi-distance performer, was a finalist in the 2006 Tampa Derby at Tampa Greyhound Track. Her littermate, Greys Huntington, also raced at two distances. He was the first dog in Derby Lane's first 81 years to clock a sub 30-second time at 550 yards: 29.86 in his 2005 lifetime debut. Greys Huntington competed in the inaugural Derby Lane Million in 2006, finishing second in the Consolation Million. He won the Tampa Shootout that year.
"Huntington was Ken's baby, and Gazillionair looks like a smaller version of Huntington," Jeanne said.
Uss Gazillionair was whelped by Mary and Jack Butler at their Greymeadow Farm in Abilene, Kan. Steven Boyd, also of Abilene, broke in Uss Gazillionair. In 2006, the Butlers teamed with St. Petersburg kennel owner-trainer Mick D'Arcy to win the inaugural Derby Lane Million with Greys Calibrator.