Until last Saturday, Hang Eleven was known as the brother of Flo Decarlo, the winning greyhound in last year's $100,000 Distance Classic at Derby Lane.
But this dog would have his day: Hang Eleven upset two of the area's better-known greyhounds, Fine Timing and Oxford Shoes, to win the $85,000 Sprint Classic.
"He's been a real nice dog, but he's never been in the limelight, so to speak," said Paul Scheele, the kennel owner. "He was a litter-mate to Flo Decarlo; that was his claim to fame. But I knew he was capable. It was just a question of being in the right spot."
In the five-sixteenths-mile race, Hang Eleven drew the favorable No. 1 box, broke second and ran down SM Florida Gal for his biggest win. Adding to the moment was that Scheele was able to share the win with his parents, Harry and Helen, both 84, who live in Maitland.
"My dad and I have been partners in this thing for 25 years now, but this is the first big win he had seen," Paul Scheele said. "He was quite thrilled."
It's got to be the Shoes: Oxford Shoes, who finished second in last November's Greyhound Race of Champions, has been entered by the Tampa Greyhound Track for this year's race at Derby Lane.
Shoes was injured in Derby Lane's Sprint Classic last Saturday, finishing eighth and last as the second favorite among bettors, but kennel owner Eddy Alderson said his star greyhound is okay.
"He sustained a little scratch and some bruises on his hind leg and we thought it was a little more severe than it is," Alderson said. "But he's all right, and he should be ready for the Distance Classic."
The four rounds of qualifying for the Distance Classic, a three-eighths-mile race, begin Feb. 29.
Tournament fever: The first Florida Jai Alai Tournament of Champions, which has the richest purse ($160,000) in the sport's history, began Friday with two two-man teams from the Northern Division frontons _ Tampa, Daytona Beach, Ocala-Fort Pierce (combined) _ in action at Fort Pierce.
The six teams play two 10-point games. Qualifying continues at Daytona on Feb. 28 and concludes in Tampa on March 6. The highest-scoring team from each fronton, plus the next best advances to the finals, joining four teams from the Southern Division frontons (Miami, Dania and Palm Beach).
Tampa's teams are Castanos and Barrondo and Francisco and Kosca. A singles tournament will be held in conjunction with the two-man tournament. Arra II will represent Tampa.
Two out of three ain't bad: My Gallant Birdie, an impressive winner of the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, probably will head the field of fillies in today's Gasparilla Stakes, the final leg of the Pepsi Challenge.
Bet Your Bonnet won the opening race of the series, the 6-furlong Sandpiper on Jan. 11, but finished a distant sixth to My Gallant Birdie in the 7-furlong Suncoast on Feb. 1. The Gasparilla is 1/ miles with a $25,000-added purse.
The Downs will be simulcasting two stakes from Gulfstream this weekend: the 46th running of the Grade II Fountain of Youth, one of the first major Kentucky Derby preps, on Saturday; and the Rampart Handicap on Sunday.