ST. PETERSBURG — Malcolm and Barbara McAllister were sailing the Pacific Ocean a year ago, headed toward the Philippines on a retirement cruise. They would survive a 7.2-magnitude earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan before returning to greyhound racing in January.
Tonight, the married couple would welcome a perfect storm for Big Red Rascal, the baby of the eight-dog final in the $50,000 Fall Sprint Stakes at Derby Lane.
Big Red Rascal, a 25-month-old male out of a litter by Red Rooster Bonz and Winnie Bones, faces a monumental challenge for McAllister kennel. Most of the attention in the 550-yard event is on two-time stakes winner and leading qualifier Odd Grayson, one of three Abernathy kennel entries, and Joey Ice (Capabal), who seeks his second stakes victory. Both greyhounds won three of four qualifying races.
"I've got a rookie in the major leagues (in Big Red Rascal) and don't really expect to win," said Malcolm McAllister, who remains retired and offers kennel guidance to his wife.
"I don't belong beating Grayson with a 30.10 (seconds, his meet-best clocking at 550 yards) or Joey Ice with 30.20s (three occasions this meet) with a 30.50 dog (Big Red Rascal's best time is 30.47). Grayson is a beast. He is a lot like Flying Coal City."
Flying Coal City won the 2010 Fall Sprint for McAllister in a stakes-record 30.33 seconds. That season, he captured the industry's Triple Crown as All-America team captain, and award winner for both the Rural Rube (best sprinter) and Flashy Sir (top distance athlete). McAllister is the only multiple winner of the Fall Sprint (Flying Macbeth won in 2008).
Big Red Rascal, owned by James Hambleton, is one of several early-speed qualifiers. He is 0-for-5 overall against Joey Ice and Odd Grayson.
"I was only going to put (Big Red Rascal) in the next race coming up (the $20,000 Fall Juvenile Stakes beginning Oct. 25)," McAllister said. "But I told Jim I got nothing else to put in this race. I figured we'd just throw him in and get the experience. Guess what? He's in the final."
Big Red Rascal drew box 1 in Race 10 (10:11 p.m.) The rest of the field in post-position order: two-time stakes winner Jw B Ward (Capabal), Joey Ice, Odd Grayson, Magic Husker (Abernathy), Kiowa Zed (Pauline O'Donnell), Husker Magic (Abernathy) and Stylistic (D'Arcy).
The first-place paycheck of $22,000 would push McAllister kennel over $900,000 in first-place added money in Derby Lane stakes races. The operation has won 25 stakes with 12 dogs since 2007.
"(Big Red Rascal) is going to be 100-1 (on the toteboard)," McAllister said. "He's a baby and still got his diapers on.
"If the track is heavy (with moisture), you need a water buffalo — big and strong, and 70 or 80 pounds. That is Odd Grayson. He's a dog you have to be worried about anywhere he runs."