ST. PETERSBURG — A noted octogenarian is one of many individuals on the move.
Derby Lane kennel operator Tom LaRosa is headed to Kansas. Other St. Petersburg operators will join him next week for the National Greyhound Association spring meet in Abilene.
At Tampa Bay Downs, horsemen have made plans for the summer. Owners, trainers, jockeys, backside workers and horses will be leaving the Oldsmar track when the meet ends May 4.
LaRosa, 80, is going to Kansas for several reasons. The greyhound stakes and auction, visitation to dog farms, and renewal of old acquaintances top his list. But he, along with Gloria — his wife of 58 years — will be recognized Wednesday for service in the industry.
"You go along, doing your job and working with the dogs," he said. "We're honored by it."
LaRosa will be joined by family members from Florida, Georgia, Indiana and Texas. The former cabinetmaker and restaurant owner got involved in the sport in the 1960s, when he volunteered at several kennels.
"I met Paul Scheele (current trainer with Wayne Strong Kennel) and started to work with him," LaRosa said. "He had a booking up in Massachusetts. When he went there, I ran a kennel in Sarasota and Tampa until he came back. I did it for a few years, then got out of it and went back into the cabinet business. We had a chance to get into (the greyhound industry) again and took the chance."
A kennel operator for more than 20 years, LaRosa has worked with three All-America dogs: Bob's Tray (1991), Ben Awhile (2002) and Bob's Skeet (2006), All-America captain and Rural Rube winner as top sprinter. LaRosa's trainer is Kim McAuliffe.
Kennel operator and trainer Mick D'Arcy also will be in Kansas. His Dreamy Blossom will be recognized for being on the All-America team. D'Arcy said his sprinter has been retired because of injuries and illnesses. She will be a brood matron in Kansas.
Honors also will go to Derby Lane's other All-America greyhounds: captain and Rural Rube winner Flying Stanley, and Flyin Bridgeport, winner of the Flashy Sir award (top distance dog).
Their success came under kennel operators Malcolm and Barbara McAllister, who won't be able to attend the Kansas ceremonies. A majority of the track's 18 kennel operators are expected to be at the spring meet.
With nine days remaining in the Downs' 82nd season, travel plans abound.
Leading trainer Jamie Ness will return to Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., and top jockey Daniel Centeno plans to go to Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. The two have blistered Downs' competition this year in record-setting fashion.
Trainer Barbara McBride, who notched her 1,000th career win Jan. 5 with Ashley and I, will move her horses to Indiana Downs in Shelbyville. Second-leading trainer Dale Bennett is headed to Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill. With the closing of Great Lakes Downs in Muskegon, Mich., Gerald Bennett, Dale's father, and Ronnie Allen Sr. will go to other tracks: Bennett to Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., and Mountaineer Park in Chester, W.Va., and Allen to Mountaineer Park.
Gregory Griffith and Bob Jeffries, president of the Downs-Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, will condition at Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens. Tom Proctor will have horses at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., and Arlington Park.
Jane Cibelli will compete at Monmouth Park. Sharyn Wasiluk, Race Track Chaplaincy of America-Downs Division president, and her husband Peter will train at Delaware Park Racetrack in Wilmington.
Top Downs jockeys also will be on the move.
Second-leading rider Rosemary Homeister Jr. is at Delaware Park, Jose Velez Jr. is going to Arlington Park and Pablo Morales to Delaware Park. Carlos Montalvo is already at Prairie Meadows Racetrack in Altoona, Iowa.