Advertisement
  1. Sports

Derby Lane newcomers take patient approach

Published Jul. 27, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — Chances are you won't see much of Phil and Heather Marsella at Derby Lane.

Owners of the track's newest kennel, the Port St. Lucie couple is usually together on the highways, hauling greyhounds nationally to race tracks and adoptive families. While one Marsella sleeps, the other drives. They live on cell phones. And their 2006 Ford F-250, which is equipped to transport eight dogs at a time, has logged more than 1 million miles.

"Hauling is our base employment, and the phone never stops ringing," Heather said. "Phil tells people we're on the road 350 days a year. I miss my coffee pot and my three girls (greyhounds) at home."

The Marsellas joined Derby Lane on July 1. They also have a booking at Palm Beach Kennel Club. Wins have been rare at the St. Petersburg track, but Heather says patience is the key.

"We're hoping within a couple of months we'll have our full active list of dogs," she said. "It's been slow because you just can't take a Palm Beach dog and bring it to Derby Lane. You need a powerhouse dog that can run a stretch, finish a race and not tire."

Entering Friday, Marsella was last in Derby Lane's 16-kennel standings. It had nine victories at an average payout of $25.80 for a $2 win ticket. Many of Marsella's 50 dogs compete in lower grades. Of 137 starts, 102 have been at Grade D or M, none at Grade A. The kennel lost its first 23 races before winning with Cross Fire, one of six Grade D victories. Magic Kit Kat scored Marsella's highest-graded victory Thursday at Grade B.

The Marsellas, both 46 and married 24 years, purchased their first racing greyhounds 10 years ago. Their bookings began years later at Sarasota. They have raced at Flagler in Miami, Naples-Fort Myers in Bonita Springs and Sanford-Orlando in Longwood.

The Marsellas were part of the last roster at Tampa Greyhound Track, which ended live racing abruptly in 2007. Their Tampa operation was known as MJG Greyhounds, and it tied for fourth in the win standings among 12 kennels. Tampa was competing year-round against Derby Lane, but canceled racing after only 49 days and 56 performances. The Marsella dogs moved to Flagler, Heather said.

Winning races isn't the only agenda for the Marsellas. They want to educate their three children in the industry. Joe Marsella, 19, assists trainer John Farmer at Derby Lane. At Palm Beach, Michael Marsella, 24, is a trainer and Gabriella Marsella, 17, is a kennel assistant.

"What we're really trying to do is set a business up, one for Michael and one for Joe," Heather said. "But they need to learn more before they can go on their own. Gabriella handles dogs like she's been in the business her whole life."

MORE DOGS: Win leader Venus Espinosa of Patriot kennel goes for his ninth consecutive victory in Race 10 (10:11 p.m.).

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The NFC South quarterbacks -- the Panthers' Cam Newton, the Falcons' Matt Ryan and the Saints' Drew Brees are in various states of duress. It could add up to an advantage for the Bucs, but Coach Bruce Arians says pay no attention. Associated Press
    Saints’ Drew Brees, Panthers’ Cam Newton battling injuries, but Tampa Bay coach wants an inward focus
  2. Carrollwood Day's Haley Brown leads Tampa Bay in kills with 167. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    Players from Carrollwood Day, Calvary Christian, Central and Berkeley Prep claim top spots.
  3. At 23 years old, Tampa Bay forward Brayden Point already has 91 career NHL goals, including 41 last season. Now that his entry level contract has expired, Point is looking for a big payday but the Lightning has salary cap issues. CHRIS O'MEARA | AP Photo CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    John Romano: History says restricted free agents almost always stay put, and there’s too much at stake for Tampa Bay to allow this impasse to go on.
  4. Rays sensation Austin Meadows, right, and teammate Willy Adames will have plenty to celebrate if the Rays can make ground in the wild-card race this week. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    The multi-step process starts with registering online for a “postseason ticket opportunity."
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Felipe Vazquez works against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Denver. Pirates All-Star closer Felipe Vazquez has been arrested on charges of pornography and soliciting a child. Vazquez was taken into custody Tuesday morning by Pennsylvania State Police on one count of computer pornography/solicitation of a child and one count of providing obscene material to minors. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File) DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP
    The girl was 13 when the relationship began, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement says.
  6. Riverview quarterback Stazion Gage has accounted for almost 1,000 total yards and 10 touchdowns this season. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The Sharks are on the cusp of securing their first winning season in more than a decade.
  7. 4 hours ago• Florida State Seminoles
    Florida State coach Willie Taggart reacts during the first half against Boise State in Tallahassee on Aug. 31. MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP
    New quarterbacks and coordinators might explain the conference’s struggles at the outset of 2019.
  8. Blake Snell returns to the mound tonight in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. [AP photo]
    As part of an MLB package, select games are moved off traditional TV for viewing via mobile devices, smart TVs, laptops.
  9. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Caleb Benenoch participates in drills during training camp at the team's practice facility, One Buc Place, in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, July 29, 2016. LOREN ELLIOTT  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Former fifth-round pick reportedly received a lot of interest after being cut by Tampa Bay.
  10. The Tampa Bay Lightning has tapped Cigar City Brewing to bring its Jai Alai, Guayabera, and Florida Cracker beers to Amalie Arena as the team’s official craft beer partner. (Photo via Tampa Bay Lightning) Tampa Bay Lightning
    Cigar City also will move its popular annual Hunahpu’s Beer Festival to Amalie Arena starting next March.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement