ST. PETERSBURG — Rick and Rhonda Bartley have a date Saturday night. It may turn into a date with destiny.
The married couple of 35 years will gather around the residence computer on their 47-acre farm in Abilene, Kansas, watching to see if their Barts Mr Peabody can become a dual stakes champion in the $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge — Derby Lane's first stakes race of the 2017-18 season. First place pays $3,200.
"It's always good (to win a stakes), and the money helps," said Rick Bartley, 65, owner of Bartley Corporation kennel.
Barts Mr Peabody, who was bred and raised by the Bartleys, is one of eight greyhounds that advanced Wednesday to the 550-yard finale with top-four finishes. Barts Mr Peabody had a milestone victory, winning his qualifier in 30.57 seconds and paying a career-high $23. It was his 22nd lifetime victory from 84 starts. The 34-month-old male from a litter by Pat C Clement and Barts Autumn Sky has won four of his past five races.
"You'd think after winning (three in a row recently), they'd bet him a little bit," Bartley said. "Well, it's the (gamblers') loss."
Barts Mr Peabody, winner of the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile in October 2016, faces a challenging task with Rt's Bo Jangles expected to be the favorite in Race 10 at 9:47 p.m. The Cal Holland kennel standout, who captured Derby Lane's previous win title, has won five consecutive races — including Wednesday's qualifier, also in 30.57 seconds.
"I know (Rt's Bo Jangles) is a nice young dog," Bartley said. "The one thing about Peabody is he can't read the program and doesn't know how good (Rt's Bo Jangles) is."
The Bartleys, who carry 300 pups on their farm, have an attachment to Barts Mr Peabody. They raised his dam, grandam (Barts Oak) and great-grandam (Bardo).
"It's our own blood," Bartley said.
Said Rhonda Bartley: "(Barts Mr Peabody's litter) took after their mother. She had a great disposition and the pups were pretty easy to handle."
Barts Mr Peabody started his career in April 2016 at Southland Park in West Memphis, Ark., but lost all 12 starts and was moved three months later to Derby Lane.
"What hurt Peabody at Memphis was that he swings mid-track coming home, and you can't do that at those other tracks," Rick Bartley said. "St. Pete has got that long, fast stretch, and you can swing a little bit if you have enough motor … and get away with it. He's taken to (Derby Lane)."
Trainer Ken Brotherton has been behind Barts Mr Peabody's development.
"Kenny is as good a man with a pup as I know," Bartley said. "I feel fortunate to have Kenny handling these good pups."
Other starters: Ctw Party Animal (Clear The Way Kennels), Fiesta Indiana (Burk Greyhounds). Hkf Betty Lou (Farmer Racing), Po Dunk (Alderson), Se's Wepon X (Nova) and Tmc's Moonbeam (Steubenville).