ST. PETERSBURG — The wait is over — finally.
After Husker Magic became the first Derby Lane greyhound to reach 100 career victories Monday, kennel owner Jim Abernathy began to reminisce.
"You go through and look at all the other dogs that have run on this circuit," he said. "K's Flak, Dominator, Oshkosh Juliet … . (Husker Magic) has done the same things they did as far as awards, but none of them won 100 races."
Showing no signs of a sprained hock that sidelined her recently for nearly three months, Husker Magic won for the 100th time in her 160th start to become the sport's 51st greyhound to reach that milestone. It completed a bucket list of achievements for the 49-month-old female out of a litter by Rhythmless and Casino Zada. She pulled off the Triple Crown in 2015: All-America team captain, Rural Rube winner as the industry's top sprinter, and the national wins leader.
"She's got a lot of heart," said Abernathy, who operates the kennel with wife Kayruth. "She is not the fastest dog in the world, but she just always found a way to get it done."
Abernathy, 50, a native of Orlando, was born into the sport. "A dog crate was my crib," he said.
Miss Whirl, the All-America captain in 1965 and 1967, was one of the first dogs to pique Abernathy's interest. A Sarasota Kennel Club standout, Miss Whirl is tied for 13th overall in the sport with 115 wins. Jr's Ripper is first at 143.
"We used to race Sarasota for many years," Abernathy said. "I'm not comparing Magic to (Miss Whirl), but the clubhouse (at Sarasota) is named after her."
Abernathy said he has admired three other greats along the way, but none of them approached 100 wins: K's Flak (1979 All-America captain and Flashy Sir award winner as the nation's top distance runner, and 1987 Hall of Fame inductee); Dominator (2000 All-America captain and winner of the Rural Rube and Flashy Sir); and Oshkosh Juliet (1989 All-America member and Flashy Sir winner).
"A lot of good dogs came through Derby Lane but never won 100 races," Abernathy said. "I'm just happy to get (100 wins) over with. It's quite a feat."
Only one of Husker Magic's wins has come away from Derby Lane. The two-time stakes winner is trained by Claudio Lopez.
Abernathy is part of the I Mark Kennels group that owns Husker Magic along with Arthur Kaufman of Sarasota and Terry Haber of Grapevine, Ark. Abernathy said his original plans of retiring Husker Magic at the end of the meet June 30 and sending her to Haber for breeding have changed.
"As long as she stays healthy and comes off sound, I'll continue to run her for a while," Abernathy said. "I'd like to see her get 10 or 15 more (wins). Maybe someday she can get in the Hall of Fame."
Husker Magic is expected to be the kennel's entry for the $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge on June 1-4.