The week began with greyhound fans mesmerized by a pair of funnel cloud tails that spiraled beyond the Derby Lane tote board. It will end with a tale of two meets.
Derby Lane and Tampa Bay Downs conclude their 2012-13 seasons on a historic weekend for the thoroughbred track in Oldsmar.
Today, Derby Lane ends live greyhound racing for the 88th year with a matinee-evening doubleheader. The night card on Fan Appreciation Day features the $30,000 St. Petersburg Derby and the $10,000 Consolation Derby.
The Downs will have its inaugural Summer Festival of Racing Sunday and Monday. Both programs will consist of eight races with a 12:35 p.m. post time. Sunday concludes Season No. 87, and Monday kicks off the 2013-14 meet. The unprecedented scheduling allows the Downs to be considered a year-round racing oval, allowing it to control its simulcast menu and enhance purses.
The Downs' last live racing day was May 5 and after Monday, it is not scheduled to run live again until Dec. 7.
The only way to watch and wager on the Downs races is at the Oldsmar oval. The product will not be broadcast elsewhere, including Derby Lane and Tampa Greyhound Track. Simulcast wagering on other tracks will be available. A total of 102 entries were drawn for the 16 races, and festivities include a $5,000 Jockeys' Challenge. "We're looking forward to a fun few days," Downs spokeswoman Margo Flynn said.
At Derby Lane, finalists in the 87th annual St. Petersburg Derby (Race 10, 10:11 p.m.) from the rail: Mw's Alfa, Flying Ignatius, Deco Ella Lee, T's Hanky Panky, Idyllic Ida, Tmc's Roxslide, Budz Crosby and Kiowa Kay Dan. The seven-dog field in the Consolation Derby (Race 8, 9:33) in post order: Art Allen, Yarborough Bonz, Lk's Tomb Raider, So Divine, Lk's Instigator, Kiowa Jordan Doc and Jack's Cruze.
Derby Lane will start its 2013-14 season Monday night with several changes. Every performance in July is being reduced to 14 races, and the Pick-6 and Place Pick-8 wagers will be discontinued. The kennel roster will be at 16 with James Campbell returning, and the addition of Donald Burk, who is moving his second-ranked Sanford Orlando operation. Derby Lane will celebrate Independence Day on Thursday with a matinee performance and no evening card.
It has been a memorable week at Derby Lane, where funnel clouds passed on two sides of the track Monday. When cloud tails dropped from the sky after Race 5, many fans captured the phenomenon on cell phones until security cleared the tarmac. No damage was reported at the track, but more than 40 of the 455 patrons retreated to the basement until weather improved.
Track spokeswoman Vera Rasnake was not one of them. "I should have gone, too," she said. "But I couldn't take my eyes off (the tails). And wouldn't you know it was the one time I left my cell phone at home."