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Hs Birdtheword flies high early in Fall Sprint at Derby Lane

Published Sep. 26, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — The word is getting out on Hs Birdtheword.

With a minimal number of top-grade greyhounds in his operation, Derby Lane kennel owner Malcolm McAllister had few options but to enter the speedy veteran in the $50,000 Fall Sprint.

So far, so good.

Hs Birdtheword, who had lost 22 of 24 starts entering the Fall Sprint, won his first qualifying race last weekend and has advanced to the field of 16 for tonight's third round of Derby Lane's first stakes race of the season.

A victory in Race 10 (9:47 p.m.) would virtually ensure the 42-month-old male out of a litter by Nms Sweet Thing and Hs Sweet Dream a berth in the 550-yard finale on Oct. 3.

"We just don't have the power (dogs) right now, and not many good Grade A's," McAllister said. "(Hs Birdtheword) rarely won a race in the last two months, and all of a sudden — Bang! — he knows when to run the first round."

Hs Birdtheword is fourth in the Fall Sprint with 22 points after finishing fourth in the second round. Kennelmate Kiowa Lover Girl (Race 6, 8:39) also has advanced with 13 points.

Unbeaten Husker Magic, the 2014 All-America sprinter for kennel owners Jim and Kayruth Abernathy, is first at 32. She goes for her 89th lifetime win in Race 6. Qualifying ends Wednesday night.

McAllister has only six top-grade wins, but ranks second behind Burk Greyhounds in the track win standings.

Louis Amaral trains Hs Birdtheword for Kansas owner Willis Hill. The 71-pound dog is at his third track following brief stints at West Palm Beach and Mardi Gras in Hallandale Beach.

Hs Birdtheword's first-round win at 10-1 odds was his 25th overall victory in 156 starts, and marked only the second time he had overtaken a foe in the stretch for a win.

In his only previous stakes race, he was eliminated after two qualifiers in the $64,000 Sprint Classic in February.

No Derby Lane kennel operator has more stakes titles since 2007 than McAllister, a winner of 25 crowns — including two with Mega kennel, one of two operations he handled in 2007.

McAllister is the only multiple champion in the Fall Sprint, winning in 2007, 2008 and 2010. Another title won't come easy with Husker Magic among the contenders.

"Husker Magic is one really nice dog, and you have to give credit to the Abernathys," McAllister said. "She was off her game (in mid June), but Jimmy took her off and got her back at the right time.

"Birdtheword is going to be the underdog. That doesn't mean he can't win it. … I've had the (favorite) dog before and I expected to win. This time, I'm not expecting to win. But I've had long shots win a stakes race before."

McAllister's biggest upset in a Derby Lane stakes took place in the 2007 Gold Trophy Juvenile when his two entries, 13-1 shot Flying Seward and 16-1 shot Flying Vasquez, finished first and second, respectively.

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