ST. PETERSBURG — From dogs to dining, Derby Lane has undergone some changes because of Hurricane Irma.
After canceling 12 live performances since Sept. 6, the St. Petersburg greyhound track resumes racing Saturday with a matinee-evening doubleheader — highlighted by the second round of the $50,000 Husker Magic Fall Sprint.
The second annual series began Sept. 2, but was suspended by the hurricane. Track spokeswoman Alexis Winning said scheduling adjustments have been made to the Husker Magic and the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile, which was originally to begin Sept. 30. Both stakes are 550-yard events.
The Husker Magic will continue to have four qualifying rounds (Saturday, Wednesday and Sept. 23). But the championship race has been rescheduled for Sept. 30, giving greyhounds a seven-day break entering the finale. The winner earns $22,000.
The Gold Trophy has been reduced from its usual five-round format to three, with the accumulative points system being dropped and replaced with the top four finishers in each qualifying race (Oct. 7 and 11) advancing to the following round. The Gold Trophy pays $9,000 to the winner of the Oct. 14 championship race.
"The reason that we've switched the dates is because we had to get in as much schooling as possible (and) the schedule was altered so much for Hurricane Irma," Winning said. "We like to keep our stakes race finals on Saturdays, and this allows us to keep the (remaining stakes) schedule intact."
The other stakes that close out the current six-month meet ending Dec. 30 are unaffected: the $10,000 Howl-O-Ween on Oct. 25-30; the $10,000 Thanksgiving on Nov. 22-25, and the $70,000 Holiday Distance Challenge on Dec. 9-23.
All 32 dogs that began the Husker Magic will compete Saturday night in Races 4 (8:10 p.m.), 6 (8:39), 8 (9:13) and 10 (9:47). They retain their points from first-round qualifying. Brian Ernst (Capabal kennel), Kaias Pogo (Floyd), Rt's Bo Jangles (Cal Holland) and Se's Wepon X (Nova) are tied for first with 16 points apiece after opening the series with victories.
After tonight, the field will be reduced to 16 based on accumulative points.
Se's Wepon X kicked off qualifying with a four-length victory for Nova trainer Miguel Valenzuela.
"I have trust in this dog," Valenzuela said. "He likes the 7 or 8 hole (he won from box 7 in the first round), and likes to run outside. The box is very important in these stakes races."
Se's Wepon X drew post 3 in Race 6.
Winning said dining in the Derby Club has been suspended indefinitely because of the hurricane, but the rest of the facility is available to patrons.
"We sustained some damage to the Derby Club building," Winning said. "We're operational as far as poker and simulcast (wagering) goes in that building. The (racing) track wasn't bad (after the hurricane)."