ST. PETERSBURG — Eight greyhounds. Two All-America selections. One lucrative race.
In what has been a statement week for Derby Lane, tonight's $64,000 Sprint Classic is expected to be the exclamation point.
Veteran kennel owner Malcolm McAllister said, "This is the best (Sprint Classic) I've seen in a few years." Said veteran owner Hans Limmer: "The field is so tough, anyone could win it."
Both bring championship credentials into Race 10 (10:11 p.m.). Monday, McAllister's Tiger Boy and Hi Noon Renegade of Limmer's Nova kennel were voted to the 2011 All-America first team at the American Greyhound Track Operators Association spring conference in Las Vegas, where Derby Lane president and board chairman Vey Weaver received a lifetime achievement award. Tiger Boy was chosen the All-America captain, McAllister's third in the past five years.
Friday, Tiger Boy edged Hi Noon Renegade for the 2011 Rural Rube award (nation's best sprinter), the National Greyhound Association announced.
Hi Noon Renegade is the Sprint Classic defending champion and drew the rail in Derby Lane's richest 550-yard stakes. The two-time stakes winner clocked a season-best 30.28 seconds Feb. 25 in his lone qualifying win. Tiger Boy also has two stakes wins and has been a force since arriving at Derby Lane in January. He is trained by Barbara McAllister, Malcolm's wife.
Tmc's Pistol (J.E. O'Donnell Jr. kennel) is a stakes veteran, racing in his sixth championship race in nine stakes appearances. He is in search of his first stakes win.
Ambriel (D'Arcy), the lone female in the field, is the only qualifier with two wins and accumulated a series-high 50 points.
The rest of the field: Gable Eddie (McAllister), Magic Bagels (Abernathy), Se's Chewie (Capabal) and Sing In The Rain (Patriot). First place pays $25,000.
HORSES: Watch Me Go and Crimson Knight, who finished first and second, respectively, in the 2011 Tampa Bay Derby, meet again in the $60,000 Challenger Stakes (Race 8, 3:42 p.m.) at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar. … The Hearts Reaching Out fundraiser to benefit Downs backside workers is Monday. For information, call Sharyn Wasiluk at (813) 494-1870 or (813) 298-1576. … Entries will be drawn Thursday for the March 10 Festival Day card featuring three stakes: Tampa Bay Derby, Hillsborough and Suncoast.