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Similar dogs star in opener

Based on their performance in preseason schooling, it's hard to tell On the Mark and Zone Defense apart. Both are fast. Both are strong.

On the Mark posted three consecutive schooling victories. Zone Defense had one of the fastest times in preseason schooling.

Family history doesn't do much to distinguish them, either. Their fathers were champions.

On the Mark's dad, Molotov, was the first greyhound to run a sub-31.00 at the Mile High Track in Colorado. That record still stands. Zone Defense's dad, Fortress, set a track record at Derby Lane in 1996 at 30.17. That record still stands.

Today, their children will try to outdo one another when Derby Lane opens its 74th season. On the Mark and Zone Defense will race from the top two posts during the Puppy Preview, the 10th race of the matinee.

The featured race is the 74th St. Petersburg Inaugural, the 10th of the evening. Polynice, in the No. 1 post, belongs to the Charter Kennel, which topped the standings at Derby Lane last season and had a winning season at Tampa.

Greymeadow Kennel, which won most of the stake races last season, has a top dog in Greys Outlaw. The greyhound holds the fastest time at the Abilene schooling track and posted a preseason schooling time of 30.90. He is too old for the Puppy Preview and will make his debut in Race 4 of Monday's matinee.

Charter and Greymeadow Kennels are among the 21 kennels that will participate this season. The number is down after the death of Dick Andrews, who owned Dick Andrews Kennel and ran here since 1989. Thunderbird Kennel, another mainstay, decided to run at Southland track. There still is a healthy field and the slight decrease will boost the purses.

Bettors have more options. Superfecta racing will be offered every race and there will be a 15-race format every Friday night, Saturday matinee and Saturday night.

Also new this season is the Plaza Sports Bar and Grill. The building was renovated and opened in July for the weekends. It is now open every day. T.L.'s Card Room, which opened two years ago, has new hours, opening an hour later on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday (11:30 a.m.-1 a.m.). The other hours remain the same (5:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday).