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Nova kennel shines bright with Derby Lane title

ST. PETERSBURG — The greyhound racing scrapbook of Nova kennel owners Hans and Elly Limmer contains some special Derby Lane snapshots.

Hi Noon Renegade made the 2011 All-America first team. Nova became the only kennel with three consecutive $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile crowns from 2009-11. The operation has won six stakes titles, the most recent one on Nov. 26 with Hi Noon Viper in the $10,000 Thanksgiving Stakes.

A kennel title, a first, soon will be added to that collection.

When Derby Lane's six-month meet ends Dec. 31, the Limmers will complete a surreal turnaround with a runaway title against 16 rival kennels. For the operation that never finished better than fourth in the standings — losing to the eventual win leader by an average of 131 victories since coming to Derby Lane in 2007 from Colorado — the July-to-December meet will rank high among the Limmers' accomplishments.

"Finally, we made it," said Hans Limmer, 78, a native of Munich, Germany. "It feels great, but you don't know what's next."

Entering Friday, Nova held an insurmountable 260-229 win lead over four-time champion McAllister Racing kennel. Limmer, who has previously won kennel titles in Colorado and South Dakota, said his operation's success has been a team effort.

It begins with Elly Limmer, Hans' wife of 54 years. She has been the glue to keep things together in St. Petersburg while her husband resides in Harlingen, Texas, for a three-month Greyhound Racing Festival at Valley Race Park that wraps up Feb. 4.

Another key member is trainer Miguel Valenzuela. "He's done a fabulous job," Hans Limmer said. "He does his job every day, and is really a top-notch guy."

Limmer also complimented his former conditioner, Rosa Gibbs, who helped lay the foundation for Nova's improving operation by winning the kennel's first five stakes titles from 2009-11. "She did a very good job and won a lot of stakes races," Limmer said.

Many of Nova's greyhounds are supplied by Dr. Rodger Barr and wife Donna Barr, Charles Haliburton, David Hays, Jay Rangel, Steven Ward and Peter Limmer, Hans' son.

"The young dogs had to come around real good, and it was a good sign that they did," Limmer said. "The dogs make you look good."

Nova has been the kennel leader for the past 147 performances since Aug. 20. The high point came from July 30 to Aug. 25, when Nova won at least one race in 30 of 31 performances with 50 victories. In the meet's first 194 performances, Nova recorded at least one win 145 times, and had 80 multi-win cards — including seven four-win performances.

The only Nova greyhound in Derby Lane's top-10 win list is the Haliburton-owned Hi Noon Viper, who ranks third with 14 victories.

CHRISTMAS CLOSINGS: Derby Lane, Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar and Tampa Greyhound Track will be closed on Sunday.