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With racing intact for next season, Derby Lane will feature more matinees

ST. PETERSBURG — After the Florida Legislature killed a bill last weekend that could have ended greyhound racing in the state, Derby Lane dog owners and kennel operators are looking ahead again.

Upcoming is another season of year-round racing with one notable change. The Derby Lane meet will feature more matinees.

On Thursday, Derby Lane and Tampa Greyhound Track were granted six-month racing permits for 2012-13. All racing will be at Derby Lane. Each track will have 208 performances with no Sunday racing. Derby Lane's current meet concludes June 30.

Tampa Bay Downs, the thoroughbred racing facility in Oldsmar, was approved for a 92-day meet from Dec. 1 through May 5, 2013. The Downs' current season ends May 6.

Tampa Greyhound has held its meet at Derby Lane since ending live racing in 2007. Without the arrangement, Tampa would have to race live to offer poker and simulcast wagering. In recent years, the area's dog racing schedule has been eight weekly performances — six nightly cards Monday through Saturday, and matinees Wednesday and Saturday.

In 2012-13, the Tampa meet (July 2-Dec. 31) will be the same, except for Monday holiday matinees on Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans' Day and Christmas Eve. The Derby Lane meet (Jan. 1-June 29) also will have eight weekly performances. In January, February and March, it will hold matinees on Mondays with no evening racing. In the final three months, it will have evening racing only on Mondays.

Derby Lane spokeswoman Vera Rasnake said more matinees make sense.

"We're going to be in the prime tourist season," she said. "We believe it will accommodate everyone's overall schedule."

Tampa Bay Greyhound Association president and Derby Lane kennel owner Cal Holland is relieved racing will continue. For the third year in a row, state legislation that would have allowed track owners to control racing dates while still operating poker and other possible games failed. If passed, dog racing could have been phased out.

"It's nice to know we're going to race another year," Holland said. "It was a lot easier getting the bill killed this time. We had an extra lobbyist on board, and the men and women from the Florida Greyhound Association worked real hard. We talked to legislators all summer and fall, and told them if the bill passed, they would lose a lot of (tax) money and put a lot of people out of work."

HORSES: Grade II winner Arena Elvira is the 3-2 morning-line choice in the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes (Race 9, 4:10 p.m.) at Tampa Bay Downs. … Spring Hill Farm, the favorite who finished fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby, fractured a right knee in the March 10 race and will have surgery.

With racing intact for next season, Derby Lane will feature more matinees 03/16/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 16, 2012 9:17pm]
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