ST. PETERSBURG — Hans Limmer gets older and younger at the same time.
He is three years shy of hitting the half-century mark in the greyhound business and, at times, finds wins hard to come by. But when things go his way, Limmer can show the enthusiasm of a teenager.
"Hans still gets excited watching the races," said Elly Limmer, his wife. "He could have retired years ago, but he doesn't want to. I would be very bored without the dogs, too."
The Limmers, who will celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary June 22, shared a special moment on May 21 when Hi Noon Renegade won the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile at Derby Lane. Hans became the first kennel owner to win the 72-year-old race three consecutive times. It was the ninth consecutive victory for Hi Noon Renegade, who became the first greyhound to win the Gold Trophy and $64,000 Sprint Classic in the same season. He is trained by Rosa Gibbs for owner Charles Haliburton III of Centennial, Colo.
"Renegade is Rosa's favorite," Limmer said. "You've got to make an appointment with her when you want to talk to that fellow."
A telephone call five years ago put Limmer, 72, on his historic road. The native of Munich, Germany, was based at Mile High Kennel Club in Commerce City, Colo., outside of Denver. He had speed dogs, not the power pups that rule the St. Petersburg track. After talking with Derby Lane spokeswoman Vera Rasnake, Limmer believed the transition could be made.
It was a fortuitous decision, because Mile High no longer has live dog racing. Limmer's Nova kennel has not finished higher than 10th place in any of the previous five Derby Lane meets (it ranks 14th among 16 this season), but the operation has won five stakes in the past 24 months.
"Three straight (Gold Trophy) wins mean a lot, especially in St. Petersburg and after so many years of racing," Limmer said. "It's a great honor to get lucky like that."
Limmer hopes Hi Noon Renegade's success will lead to All-America honors. Limmer's most recent All-America dogs were Profits Andy, a Flashy Sir winner (top distance dog) in 1983 and Lantana Glamour in '82.
Hi Noon Renegade is expected to enter the $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge that begins Wednesday night. The top four finishers in two qualifying races advance to the 550-yard finale June 4. Aerial Battle of Capabal kennel will be a main threat in the 15th annual event. He has posted six victories in a row to reach 60 career wins under trainer Belinda Parker.
Flying Coal City will not defend his title, kennel owner Malcolm McAllister said. The 2010 All-America team captain aggravated a shoulder injury this week in his first race since March. McAllister said the dog's racing future is "undetermined."
HOLIDAY SPECIAL: Derby Lane will have a matinee-evening doubleheader on Memorial Day.