ST. PETERSBURG — The pups have sent a power surge through the Derby Lane tote board.
Through the first two rounds of the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile at Derby Lane, $2 win mutuels of $45.80, $34.60 and $32.80 have flashed on the track board. Only one favorite has prevailed, and no greyhound has won twice.
Racing secretary Jerry Miller said the trend could continue tonight as 16 greyhounds remain in contention for the $9,000 first-place prize.
"I just think the playing field is pretty level when it comes to the talent level," Miller said. "There are certainly no standouts among the group that would command any special attention. Anything can happen and that's shone."
The 550-yard qualifiers in Races 6 (8:55 p.m.) and 10 (10:11) are separated by no more than 11 points. Backwood Alva (Campbell Racing kennel) and Friecracker Gus (Hambleton) share the lead with 24, while Call Me Ishmael (D'Arcy) and Thor Bones (Hambleton) are tied for last with 13.
"A win (by the latter two dogs) could throw them ahead of the first-place dogs if they run seventh or eighth," Miller said. "It's still wide open."
Patriot, Derby Lane's win leader, is the only operation with three qualifiers remaining. Art Allen leads Patriot with 19 points, tied for fourth. Art Allen, who has clocked the fastest qualifying time with a career-best 30.46 seconds, drew box 7 in Race 10.
That appears to be the most challenging qualifier with Backwood Alva, Friecracker Gus and Flyin Commandant, the Red Oak Racing dog who was runnerup in the $80,000 Distance Classic on April 7. Art Allen is tied with Kentucky Fire for second in the track win standings at 12, one behind kennelmate Jim Mercedes.
Patriot's other two greyhounds, Cindy's Cravens (16 points) and Art Alex (14), start in Race 6 for kennel manager/trainer Cal Holland Jr.
The top eight qualifiers after Wednesday night's final round will move on to the May 19 finale. For the first time since 2008, a new kennel will win the 73-year-old Gold Trophy. Three-time defending champion Nova had its three entries eliminated.
"The puppy races are usually on the close side and a little harder to call," Miller said. "There's a six-month window on the eligibility for this tournament. You have some dogs coming in with experience, having broken their maiden back in October. That doesn't mean the ones that are young with just a few starts don't know any better (and) that they're not supposed to win."
MORE DOGS: Flyin Carnoustie (McAllister kennel) goes for his 70th career victory today in Race 12 (3:36 p.m.). … Nefarious (D'Arcy) clocked a season-best time of 30.22 seconds on the 550-yard course Thursday.