The Derby Lane Million has been a race for points.
The first four rounds were grueling, pitting kennel against kennel. That mentality has a unique change tonight in the semifinals, where 16 greyhounds remain in contention for the $500,000 prize at Derby Lane.
For several kennels, the challenge lies within. Those with multiple entries must watch their greyhounds compete against kennelmates in the first of two 550-yard races tonight.
In race 8, only four kennels will be represented by the eight greyhounds; race 10 has dogs from separate kennels.
Thorne/Herron and Magic City Kennel knew double entries would be necessary because both qualified three greyhounds for the two races. Floyd & Porter Kennel and C & C Kennel were hoping to avoid that with two dogs apiece.
"The race draw came out that way and you just have to live with it," Floyd & Porter trainer Cal Holland Jr. said. "From my understanding, (racing secretary William Van Hoogen) tries to protect the kennels from double entries during qualifying, but he's not always able to do it in the semifinals."
The first semifinal, in post position order, consists of Sas Mason Jar (Thorne/Herron), Oh Well Whocares (C & C), Jack Whistler (C & C), Em's Darla (Floyd & Porter), Ebony River (Magic City), Kiowa Cruzechamp (Thorne/Herron), Extruding Dream (Magic City) and Joe Hearns (Floyd & Porter).
The second, in post position order, has Your Lucky Charm (Magic City), Flying Nitrogen (McAllister Kennels), Mayor Daley (Ryan Farms), Bob's Skeet (LaRosa Enterprises), Kiowa Cruze Thru (Thorne/Herron), Greys Huntington (Lester Raines Kennel), Cajun Cain (Brumage/Filipelli) and Greys Calibrator (D'Arcy Kennel).
Greys Calibrator and Joe Hearns have qualified for the eight-dog championship race on March 4 with 56 and 54 points, respectively. The remaining dogs have points ranging from 29-44. With winners receiving 16 points, the final six spots are wide open.
"With Joe Hearns already in the finals, we're hoping (Em's) Darla can get enough points to join him," Holland said.
Em's Darla is 11th in points with 36, eight behind third-place Kiowa Cruzechamp. Dogs that fail to finish in the top eight will be in the Derby Lane Consolation.
MORE DOGS: Tonight, the first 2,000 fans receive wallets; those with numbers of the winning dogs in races 8 and 10 get $50 Derby Lane dining certificates for two.
HORSES: Icy Atlantic, trained by Todd Pletcher, heads a field of 12 older horses for today's $125,000 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup at Tampa Bay Downs. Other top challengers for the 1 1/16-mile turf test are Remind, runnerup in last year's event, and graded-stakes winner Fort Prado. Several horses that ran in the Sam F. Davis are expected in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 18. Pletcher told the Daily Racing Form that Bluegrass Cat came off his win in excellent shape and would run the Tampa Bay Derby. Runnerup Deputy Glitters also could return, and Nick Zito told the Daily Racing Form that Little Cliff and Hesanoldsalt also are likely to compete. R Loyal Man, third in the Sam F. Davis, isn't expected back. James Hartley has been chosen as the track's trainer of the month. Tammi Piermarini won her 1,499th career race Sunday aboard Rubiano Lad. Atticus Kristy on Tuesday became the seventh horse to break a track record, sprinting 5 furlongs on the turf in 55.02 seconds. Track vice president and general manager Peter Berube said the facility is having an outstanding season. Through 48 days, increases are in live on-track handle (7.3 percent), combined all-source handle (10.9 percent), overnight purses paid (6 percent) and average number of starters per race (9.84, compared to 9.34). Attendance is down (1.62 percent).
- DON JENSEN, Times correspondent