ST. PETERSBURG — The journey started about 150 miles south of where he was standing.
After watching his Lagro Cc Nance win the $20,000 Fall Juvenile Stakes Nov. 7 at Derby Lane, Rex Vigar turned back the clock 40 years to the time when he and his wife of 53 years, Nancy, were visiting Naples Fort Myers Greyhound Track in Bonita Springs.
"That day, I told my wife, 'Somebody's got to own those dogs (on the track), and before it's over with, I'm going to own one,' " he recalled. "She said, 'You're going to own one?' I said, 'Heck, yes. What more excitement would there be than to watch a dog pop a box … and maybe win?' "
Lagro Cc Nance won with the early burst that attracted Vigar to the sport. She broke first from the No. 5 box, rushed to a three-length lead, then held off Mac's Gossie by a neck. The 69-pound greyhound clocked 550 yards in 30.53 seconds as the second wagering favorite ($7.80). Lagro Cc Nance is trained by Belinda Parker.
It was the third Fall Juvenile victory for Capabal, which tied Lester Raines for most wins in the 9-year-old event. "We've had really good luck the last couple of years in stakes races," Capabal owner Henry Parker said. "Belinda has done a nice job with the dogs."
Vigar, 71, breeds one litter of greyhounds every year at his farm in Roann, Ind. "That's all I can afford," he said. "It's so expensive."
Lagro Cc Nance became Vigar's first stakes winner at Derby Lane. The 22-month-old female out of a litter by Bd's Grayson and Kb's Go Mama is named after Vigar's wife, and earned $9,000 with her 12th victory from 28 career starts.
Vigar bred and raised Lagro Cc Nance and her six littermates, eventually sending the dogs to Margaret Bridges and her daughter, Windy Bridges, for training at Fort White in northern Florida. Lagro Cc Nance's first race at Derby Lane was in July.
When Vigar entered the greyhound business, the first dog he purchased was Society Queen at the National Greyhound Association sale in Abilene, Kan. "Her first litter didn't do too badly, so I thought this is easy," he said. "Next year, I had four litters and they didn't do anything. I lost money, so I thought I'd better forget this."
Vigar, who retired from the railroad industry, stayed the course. Two years ago, he won his first stakes race at Ebro Greyhound Park in the Florida Panhandle.
"(Lagro Cc Nance) is out of a real nice litter of dogs," Belinda Parker said. "We saw a lot of hope in them right from the beginning."
Mac's Gossie's narrow defeat also was the best stakes finish by Alabama kennel owner Patty Byers since arriving at Derby Lane in 2011.
"She's just a baby, and I'm proud of her," Byers said. "She's been getting better every start."
MORE DOGS: Derby Lane plant superintendent William Bell is retiring to end a 46-year career.