ST. PETERSBURG — In the kennel, Uss Gazillionair is high maintenance. On the racetrack, he is high performance. The only undefeated greyhound through the first two rounds of the $50,000 Fall Sprint, Uss Gazillionair attempts to keep his record intact tonight as qualifying resumes at Derby Lane.
The points leader with 32, Uss Gazillionair appears to be in the tougher of two qualifiers. The Lester Raines kennel dual-distance dog starts from box-2 in Race 6 (8:55 p.m.) and faces four other top-six point scorers. They are 5-2 morning-line favorite Jw Titlist and Sand Cloud, each with 26 points; Craigie I Am Jak (24); and Manicotti Manny (20). Flying Coal City (26 points) seeks his 65th career win as the 5-2 early-line choice in Race 10 (10:11).
Uss Gazillionair, who turns 3 Wednesday, enjoys attention and has attracted more in Derby Lane's first stakes of the season.
"He gets jealous if you talk to his neighbors too much or play with them before you put them up," said Jeanne Lesperance, who manages the kennel with husband Ken, also the trainer. "He's definitely got an attitude."
He also has drive and durability. Uss Gazillionair has 32 career wins, one stakes victory (2010 Fall Juvenile) and is stakes-placed in three events this year: second in the Distance Classic and St. Petersburg Derby, two 660-yard races in which he led in the stretch; and third in the T.L. Weaver Memorial.
The male out of a litter by Uss Raceway and Greys Torrington has never missed a race to injury, making at least six starts in 15 consecutive months. Uss Gazillionair has earned more than $55,000 with top-four finishes in 90 of 105 career starts. Only once has he had back-to-back, out-of-the-money showings.
Owned by Ron Wiltse and Raines, Uss Gazillionair last won two consecutive races in late April, when he proceeded to go on a 21-race losing streak. During that span, he had 17 in-the-money finishes.
"I never call that losing," Lesperance said. "You get paid for the first four spots. … That's what pays the bills."
Qualifying ends Wednesday with the finale Oct. 1. A stakes win by Uss Gazillionair would be special for Lesperance. It would extend the kennel's streak of winning a Derby Lane stakes race to seven seasons. Lesperance also used to race Uss Gazillionair's parents.
"There are some very nice sprinters here and it would mean a great deal (to win), especially being the dog has sentimental value," she said. "Give me a dog that tries hard every start, any day of the week, over a dog who can win a lot of races but doesn't do anything in between. Gazillionair tries 99 starts out of 100."
HORSES: Former Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Jesse Garcia got his 2,000th thoroughbred career win on his 16,637th mount Wednesday aboard Joyssweetjoy at the Downs in Albuquerque, N.M.