ST. PETERSBURG — If the past is an indicator, more is in the future for this year's St. Petersburg Derby winner than a blanket, a trophy and a $13,000 paycheck.
"(The Derby) is certainly a prestigious title," Derby Lane director of racing Jerry Miller said. "I don't think there's any dog looking for a stud or breeding career that wouldn't like to have it as one of its (racing) lines."
Qualifying for the Derby, the final stakes race of the track's 2010-11 season, begins tonight in Races 4, 6, 8 and 10. The top four finishers in each race advance to Wednesday night's semifinals. The first four dogs in those races advance to the $30,000 Derby. The others run in the $10,000 Consolation Derby, both June 25. First post tonight is 7:30.
Since 2000, the collective group of winners in the Derby has gone on to fame and fortune. Tmc's Remedy, the 2010 winner, was a two-time All-America selection with $172,233 in career earnings. Boot Scootin Gal, back-to-back Derby winner in 2000-01, won 69 of 265 starts. Extruding Dream, the 2006 champion, captured the Flashy Sir award as the nation's top distance performer. He also was an All-America choice along with 2005 winner Its Dust Em and 2002 champ Kiowa Sweet Joe.
Together, the 10 dogs combined for 375 victories from 1,379 starts and $679,513 in purses.
With 2010 All-America team captain Flying Coal City of McAllister kennel inactive with a shoulder injury, Miller believes at least 10 dogs have a chance to win the 660-yard event.
"(Kennel owner) Malcolm (McAllister) took a hit when he lost Coal City," Miller said. "But he's developed some pups like Flying Marvelous and Flying Masago."
Flying Marvelous, an 18-month-old female, has won five of six career starts, including all four at 660 yards. She starts in Race 8 tonight. McAllister's other entries are Flying Eyelet (Race 4) and Flying Masago (Race 6). Miller said McAllister's youthful dogs remind him of the victory by Abernathy kennel's Magic Finch in the $80,000 Distance Classic on April 9. Magic Finch entered that event with only 16 career starts.
"That was a perfect example of getting a young dog to run at the right time," Miller said.
Magic Finch, a 25-month-old female, is entered in Race 8. It will be her first start in nearly two months after being sidelined with an injury. Other top contenders: Fall Juvenile winner and Distance Classic runnerup Uss Gazillionair (Lester Raines kennel) and Gold Trophy Juvenile third-place finisher Tortuga Trophy (D'Arcy) in Race 6; and Gold Trophy runnerup Kentucky Fire (Cal Holland) in Race 10.
Six of the past 11 Derby winners have been females.
"Traditionally, you see the males dominate the sprints," Miller said. "But the distance course is probably the best bet when it comes to being unbiased as far as the males and females go."