ST. PETERSBURG — The running joke between Jay Rangel and Paul Bitterman is that one has several stakes wins and the other doesn't have any.
Pj Fresno of Abernathy kennel can change that.
The $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile Stakes resumes tonight at Derby Lane and the two long-distance greyhound business partners will be watching Pj Fresno, a pup they own.
Pj Fresno enters the third qualifying round in second place with 26 points, six behind undefeated Citizen's Arrest of D'Arcy kennel. Both dogs are in Race 10 (10:11 p.m.). The other qualifier is Race 6 (8:55). Qualifying concludes Wednesday with the top eight dogs advancing to the May 18 finale.
Rangel, 44, whelped and raised Pj Fresno at Greymeadow Farm in Abilene, Kan., the site that produced 2006 Derby Lane Million winner Greys Calibrator. He purchased the farm in September from Jack and Mary Butler. Rangel has won stakes races at tracks in Arkansas and Iowa, but never at Derby Lane. Bitterman, a resident of Lancaster, N.Y., is looking for his first stakes winner.
"Paul would be on cloud nine if he could win one," Rangel said. "He tells me all the time that he's never been part (of a stakes win)."
Pj Fresno, who has 10 victories from 30 lifetime starts, entered the Gold Trophy with only one schooling race in the previous month because of a split web. Sending Pj Fresno to Derby Lane wasn't the original plan, Rangel said. The dog was going to be placed in the National Greyhound Association fall sale, but that idea was scrapped when Pj Fresno encountered a sore shoulder.
The 23-month-old homebred male out of a litter by stakes winner Djays Octane and Bikini Bar was among the first group of maidens that Rangel delivered to Derby Lane kennel owners Jim and Kayruth Abernathy.
"Jim and his wife had asked me to lease them a few dogs," Rangel said. "So I send them a couple of nice pups and see how they turn out. (Pj Fresno) is a late-speed, power type of dog, and I thought he'd really like the stretch at Derby Lane."
Jim Abernathy said Pj Fresno is making up for lost time.
"We were babying (the split web) and schooling him short every day," he said. "That has healed now, but you couldn't work him full throttle. These other dogs had been running twice a week.
"He's a nice pup that likes the outside. If he can get around second, third or fourth clean, he's got a good shot to win."
HORSES: T.D. Houghton, a former two-time riding champion at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, earned his 5,000th victory on May 4 aboard Mambo Galliano at Thistledown in Cleveland.