ST. PETERSBURG —They had epic battles, once tying for a kennel championship.
Part of the past is back at Derby Lane.
John Filipelli, who had legendary duels over supremacy with Malcolm McAllister in the previous decade at the St. Petersburg greyhound track, has returned to Derby Lane after a seven-year hiatus. He is the trainer for the new Clear The Way Kennels, an operation owned by David and Janele Peck of Stephenville, Texas.
"I'm glad to be back," Filipelli said. "It's going to be even better to be here in the wintertime, of course. We went through some miserable winters in the last seven years."
Filipelli, 59, spent a majority of those years in Iowa, where he raced greyhounds and owned a kennel at Bluffs Run in Council Bluffs. Things were going well for him until December 2015, when state-approved legislation ended greyhound racing at the track. Filipelli then worked the Greyhound Racing Festival at Valley Race Park in Harlingen, Texas, where he met David Peck — leading to Filipelli's opportunity to train for Clear The Way Kennels.
This is Filipelli's 17th year at Derby Lane. From 2007-10 as the Filipelli & O'Donnell kennel manager, he won 1,609 races, nine stakes and two kennel championships. Only McAllister, a four-time kennel champion who left Derby Lane this past May, had more victories during that span with 1,796. Filipelli & O'Donnell kennel disbanded in June 2010 with Filipelli starting his own operation at Derby Lane. He left for Iowa three months later with eventual two-time leading kennel Red Oak Racing taking his kennel spot.
"(Those showdowns against McAllister) were classic," Filipelli said.
Clear The Way Kennels began this week tied for sixth in the 17-kennel win standings with 40. Filipelli is assisted in the kennel by wife Davina Filipelli and daughter Davyana Haverty. Seventy percent of the stock is supplied by the Pecks, who operate a breeding farm.
"The kennel is doing well," Filipelli said. "It's getting over that acclimation period (with) most of the dogs coming in from Wheeling, W.Va., and getting adapted to the heat situation. We're going to make the initial adjustments for dogs that don't adapt to this track, and we've got an exchange of about a dozen dogs coming up.
"I had to go back to work. I turned down a couple of jobs in (West) Memphis (Arkansas at Southland Park), and was familiar with the routines (at Derby Lane). I've been supporting myself (in the greyhound industry) since I was 17. It's all I know. Put yourself in the job market — a 60-year-old man (on Feb. 8) with no computer skills and no real education — and you're way down on the list (in the job market).
MORE DOGS: Derby Lane begins its 2017-18 stakes schedule Wednesday night with qualifying in the $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge. The 550-yard finale is Aug. 19