Justin Holland expects strong performance at Derby Lane

Published Sept. 7, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — Justin Holland hasn't forgotten a detail.

Standing near the paddock in December 2005, a teenage Holland had just seen Rambition win the $10,000 Matinee Idol Stakes at Derby Lane. He lifted cousin Lindsay Starling off the tarmac and headed for the winner's circle.

"I got excited because I knew we had won, and I picked her up and started to carry her until she yelled to put her down," Holland said. "It was my first stakes win."

And last.

Holland, 26, is looking for better results when Derby Lane kicks off its stakes program Sept. 21-Oct. 5 with the $50,000 Fall Sprint. The kennel manager-trainer for grandfather Cal Holland is expected to enter two of the track's top winners: veteran dual-distance performer Jack's Cruze and young sprinter Craigie Beck.

"I like the Holland tradition," said the fifth-generation dog man and native of Ocala. "I know racing in Florida has gone down a bit and all the big breeders are in the other money tracks at different states. It would be nice to bring people back to Florida."

Holland was a kennel helper when Rambition outlasted favorite Bob's Spider by a head at 6-1 odds. That was the kennel's last title 93 stakes races ago. In January, the 2005 graduate of Pinellas Park High assumed the operation's managerial role. Assisted by girlfriend Brandy Glaspey, Holland has Cal Holland in third place in the 16-kennel standings behind defending champion Red Oak Racing and three-time champion Patriot.

"We always have dogs who are running really good between the stakes races," Holland said. "But it seems we get a bit unlucky with the (starting) holes, and (the dogs) don't seem to run the same when it comes time for stakes races."

Jack's Cruze and Craigie Beck could change that. Owned by Michael Cassidy of Denver, Jack's Cruze is a strong closer with two final appearances from five stakes races. He was second in the $75,000 Holiday Distance Classic in 2012 and third this year in the $10,000 St. Petersburg Consolation Derby, both at 660 yards.

Craigie Beck, a 20-month male from a litter of Kelsos Fusileer and Craigie Crimson, was purchased in April by Cal Holland at the National Greyhound Association spring meet at Abilene, Kan. The speedster has 10 wins from 25 starts. Craigie Beck clocked the meet's fastest 550 time Aug. 28 at 30.33 seconds.

"Cruze wants the rail so much," Holland said. "If the rail is clear and he's moving with nobody in his way, he can get a good surge on coming down the homestretch. Beck definitely likes to break out front. If he does, he's hard to catch."