ST. PETERSBURG — Early in his career, Jw Titleist treated the first turn at Derby Lane like the proverbial yellow flashing traffic light. He proceeded with extra caution.
Now the Capabal kennel standout is a different greyhound, one that leads the meet in wins. "He's got a little more nerve (on the turn)," kennel owner Henry Parker said. "He was backing out, shying out a little early on. That's the difference between good dogs and mediocre dogs."
Parker said it has been "a nice surprise" to see Jw Titleist emerge into one of Derby Lane's top 550-yard sprinters. Jw Titleist didn't win at Grade A until his 32nd start. Even that victory was a surprise; he rallied from last place and paid a career-high $32.40 as the longest shot in the race.
Since overcoming the first-turn woes, Jw Titleist has won consistently at the highest level. He has wins in 16 of his past 35 Grade A starts, raising his career win total to 34 from 134 races. He is expected to be entered in the $50,000 Fall Sprint, which runs from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1.
"He's running the turn so good now, especially when he's outside and rushes," Parker said. "When he hits the stretch, he'll come and get you. The key thing is we've stayed away from injuries. You need one of those dogs that run two times a week and runs hard."
The 75-pound male has been a cash cow for owners John Bladen of Oklahoma and Walter Wasik of Texas. Since April 9, Jw Titleist has made 36 starts without back-to-back, out-of-the-money finishes. He has 17 wins and eight seconds in that span. Purse money is paid to the first four dogs in each race.
Jw Titleist leads the meet with 11 victories, three more than Venus Espinosa (Patriot kennel).
Trained by Belinda Parker, Jw Titleist clocked a career-best time of 30.29 seconds at 550 yards July 20. It is the meet's second-fastest time behind the 30.28 by Flying Coal City (McAllister).
Jw Titleist is a versatile performer with half his victories coming from off the pace. He is a half-brother of kennelmate Aerial Battle, a former Derby Lane win champion who returned Tuesday from a sprained hock and registered his 64th career victory. Both greyhounds are out of Abita Cruzin, who raced in the $140,000 Mardi Gras Challenge in 2007 at Hallandale Beach. Jw Titleist's sire is stakes winner Dave The Dog, Southland Park's 2005 greyhound of the year and win leader at West Memphis, Ark.
"Titleist got his talent from his mom," Parker said. "He's come into his own."
HORSES: Former Tampa Bay Downs leading trainer Kirk Ziadie has been reinstated at Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens. Ziadie, 43, had been banned for two years for incidents involving positive drug tests to horses and late payments to vendors, BloodHorse.com reported. Ziadie won the Oldsmar title in 2005-06 with 34 wins.