ST. PETERSBURG — The litter has given Justin Holland a lot of thrills.
Kentucky Kat's win in the $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge — her first stakes title — was the latest one.
On a night when Derby Lane retired all-time win leader Husker Magic made a farewell on-track appearance on Aug. 27, Kentucky Kat of Cal Holland kennel grabbed the spotlight by winning the track's first stakes race of the season. The victory was a carbon copy of her semifinal win, when she overtook Floyd kennel speedster Tr's Flapjack in the stretch. Kentucky Kat beat her rival in the finale by 11/2 lengths as the 2-1 wagering favorite, clocking 550 yards in 30.57 seconds — the fastest time among 56 sprinters on the performance. In the semifinals, she beat Tr's Flapjack by 3 lengths.
"(Kentucky Kat) was close enough to where I know Flapjack is a little bit short, so she was able to catch him at the end," said Holland 29, her trainer and kennel manager. "Still, (Flapjack) really put up a much tougher (race) than he did (in the semifinal)."
Kentucky Kat, a 29-month-old female and the fifth leading winner at the previous meet despite missing 10 weeks with a toe issue, joined littermate Somerset Roy as a stakes winner. Somerset Roy won the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile on May 7. Another littermate, Kentucky Warren, created buzz this year by dominating his first two schooling races by a combined 34 lengths. Kentucky Warren proceeded to win his first seven official starts, and was the 8-5 betting choice in the Gold Trophy — finishing fourth.
The three greyhounds are part of a six-dog litter by Pat C Clement and Kentucky Jude. They are owned by Don and Helen Godby of Eaton, Colo.
"It helps out we've had two separate stakes-race winners in the same litter," Holland said. "Kentucky Warren won his first seven in a row, but he's a little weird and we've tried to (work) with him."
Kentucky Kat earned $3,200 with her 22nd victory from 46 starts, all at 550 yards.
"I haven't put her (at 660 yards) yet, but it might be worth it," Holland said. "She's got a lot of heart to where she'll try and put it out that extra 110 yards."
Two races before Kentucky Kat's win, Husker Magic walked onto the track for a final time with kennel co-owner Kayruth Abernathy showing the way. Husker Magic, who was retired in June with 105 victories, is the only dog in Derby Lane's 91 years to reach the century mark in wins. Trained by Claudio Lopez, Husker Magic is owned by kennel co-owner Jim Abernathy (Kayruth's husband), Arthur Kaufman of Sarasota and Terry Haber of Grapevine, Ark.
"(The night) was special," Holland said. "I lost many times to (Husker Magic), but she definitely deserved everything she got, because she was able to withstand the ins and outs of every day. Jim and Kayruth did a very nice job taking care of her."