ST. PETERSBURG — Pauline O'Donnell kennel manager-trainer John Graham often relates Kiowa Jordan Doc to the best athlete at a high school.
"He's like the kid who's your quarterback on the football team, the same kid who is the point guard on the basketball team, the same kid who's the star pitcher on the baseball team," Graham said. "He will compete in anything we put him into."
Kiowa Jordan Doc goes for his first stakes victory tonight in the $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge, Derby Lane's final 550-yard stakes race of the season.
The T.L. Weaver (Race 8, 9:33 p.m.) caps an eventful day of racing, highlighted by the 145th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. The final Triple Crown race featuring Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow will be simulcast at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Tampa Greyhound Track and Derby Lane at 6:36 p.m. (Race 11). Area tracks will open at 11 a.m.
Kiowa Jordan Doc, a smallish 66-pound male with a big heart, showed his versatility Wednesday by winning his first start in 18 races at 550 yards.
"He's not the best sprinter because of his size," Graham said. "He can't take a lot of contact, and the (550) race is so short that he just can't overcome the loss of time. Is he good at five-sixteenths? Better than average. But in three-eighths he's an elite dog; he's a potential All-American."
Until last week, Kiowa Jordan Doc had clocked the meet's best 550 time at 30.38 seconds. This is the fourth stakes final for Kiowa Jordan Doc, a third-place finisher in the $80,000 Distance Classic on April 6.
The T.L. Weaver field has combined for 200 victories and 22 stakes finals. But only one dog has a stakes win, Venus Espinosa, Patriot kennel's All-America second-team selection. The $50,000 Fall Sprint winner has 63 career victories and is the meet's top winner with 17.
"I love Venus Espinosa," director of racing Jerry Miller said. "He is an extremely nice dog that is starting to get a little age on him (he turns 4 in October). Working with the dogs as much as I do, you get your heartstrings attached to some of them."
Starters from the rail: Ed N Eddie (Hambleton Racing kennel), Kiowa Jordan Doc, Budz Crosby (Alderson), Citizen's Arrest (D'Arcy), Flyin Pink Floyd (McAllister), Venus Espinosa, Jack's Cruze (Cal Holland) and Wc Morpheous (Red Oak Racing).
The race honors Derby Lane's late founder, the great-grandfather of track president and chairman of the board Vey Weaver, and vice president Richard Winning. Louise Weaver, great-granddaughter to T.L. Weaver and track assistant vice president, will make the trophy presentation.
MORE DERBY LANE: Miller said it appears no new kennels will be added to the roster. The track will have 14 kennels on July 1 after the losses of McAllister (retiring) and Campbell (dissolved in February).