ST. PETERSBURG — For Victor Hall, victory is part of his DNA. He has won from Florida to New Hampshire. His dogged determination is integral to his success.
"My fiancee (Jill Gorman) and I were joking about (his competitiveness) the other day," said Hall, manager and trainer of Patriot Kennel, one of Derby Lane's top operations. "It is absolutely essential. I just won't quit working until I'm winning everything. I am highly, highly competitive, from Scrabble to Trivial Pursuit to dog racing."
Entering Friday, Hall, 42, had Patriot fourth in the 16-kennel standings with 68 wins (Charter led with 80). Hall said he has never been more proud of a kennel in his 24-year career, but his thoughts were different in January, when Patriot joined Derby Lane for Massachusetts owner Vinny Savill. Patriot lost its first 63 starts, ending the 2008-09 meet ahead of only defunct Rian Racing, with 152 victories.
"I started thinking these dogs were really outclassed and I was a little bit over my head," Hall said. "They did come around, finally."
Patriot's 66-dog kennel had only five Grade A wins from January through June but has nine since July 1. Sprinter Kiowa Ak Richpie, who sought his sixth victory Friday, is Patriot's top winner. "I think he's going to be an absolute phenom with no end to his potential in sight," Hall said.
A native of Putnam, Conn., Hall has handled champions including 2001 All-America sprinter Kiowa Sweet Trey and 1995 Gold Trophy Juvenile winner Pro's Hey Jude. Hall is searching for his first kennel title. "I think I have the youngest kennel here, and my main goal is to stay close to the lead," Hall said. "As my puppies mature, I think we've got a chance to win this whole thing."
More Derby Lane: Alderson Kennel's Lamorge Streaker became the meet's first 10-race winner Thursday, her 66th lifetime victory.
Downward trend: Wagering in Florida declined in fiscal year 2008-09 (ended June 30) from the previous year. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering said total money wagered at 16 greyhound tracks was down 15.7 percent and 18.3 percent at three thoroughbred tracks. Combined state wagering — including six jai alai frontons and one standardbred track — totaled $1,108,401,006, off 17.5 percent. Total wagering at Derby Lane was down 33.6 percent and 20.5 percent at Tampa Bay Downs, the Oldsmar thoroughbred track. Derby Lane's percentage is skewed, with seven fewer weeks of live racing. Wagering was up 3.62 percent at Tampa Greyhound Track, which holds its live meet at Derby Lane. Poker revenue at the state's 21 card rooms climbed 11.93 percent to $101,700,242 but was flat at all three area sites.
Calder bans: Kirk Ziadie, leading trainer at Tampa Bay Downs during the 2005-06 season, jockey agent Richard Ciardullo and veterinarian Raul Jimenez have been banned from Calder, a track owned by Churchill Downs Inc. in Miami Gardens. "This is crazy," Ziadie said. "They just walked me into the office, gave me a letter saying Churchill Downs doesn't want me on the track any more. … They wouldn't give me any reason for the decision.
Beldame Stakes: Online wagering businesses TVG and Betfair Ltd. offered to add $400,000 to the purse if Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta run. That would create a $1 million purse for a showdown between the two unbeaten females, contenders for horse of the year. The Beldame is Oct. 3 at Belmont Park.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.