1. Sports

Teenage trainer in class by himself at Derby Lane

Published Nov. 17, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — The day was already special for Alex Hall.

Besides celebrating the two-month birthday of son Bradley Alexander Hall on Nov. 10, the teenage manager-trainer for Red Oak Racing kennel was starting his first two greyhounds in a stakes finale, the $20,000 Fall Juvenile Stakes at Derby Lane.

Hall had the race favorite, 5-2 choice Flying Observer, and the longest shot, 16-1 outsider Flying Soriano.

"When I woke up (on race day), I didn't really feel like we had much of a shot," he said. "But when it came to weigh-in and with us having two (finalists), I thought we had more of a shot than everybody else."

Flying Soriano proved Hall right, rallying to defeat Lily Rose (Floyd & Porter kennel) for his first title. It was the first time in the past 41 stakes finals at Derby Lane that a dog with the highest win odds had prevailed. The last one was 17-1 shot Hi Noon Rembrant (Nova) in the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile in May 2009.

But the story was Hall, 19, who joined Red Oak on July 13. The son of former Patriot kennel manager-trainer Victor Hall is one of the youngest trainers in the track's 87 years to win a stakes, Derby Lane spokeswoman Vera Rasnake said. He may be the youngest to win on his first attempt.

Hall is part of the new age at Derby Lane. Five of the 16 trainers are younger than 30, and Hall is the only one who also runs an operation. Assisted by his girlfriend, Amanda Cardinal, and Bill Bryant, Hall has led Red Oak into second place in the win standings, behind defending champion Patriot. Red Oak has more than 60 greyhounds.

Joining Hall for his historic feat was mother Jill Spicer, who traveled from Bonita Springs, where she is a kennel manager-trainer at Naples-Fort Myers. "She's my good-luck charm," he said.

Flying Soriano, a 25-month-old male out of a litter by Flying Penske and Flying Snap Off, went into the Fall Juvenile on a 12-race losing streak. Hall entered him because Flying Soriano had more starts than most of his challengers, and he had finished second to track win leader Venus Espinosa (Patriot) on Aug. 21.

"I thought Flying Observer would have a better shot to win (she finished sixth)," Hall said. "But in the kennel, Soriano was barking in the pen. I said, 'Well, he's feeling good today.' "

Flying Soriano, who has 10 wins, made his first 47 career starts at 550 yards for owner Vince Berland of Abilene, Kan. Hall moved him to 660 Wednesday, and he finished sixth.

"I'm not sure that he can go (longer), but you've got to try to make sure," Hall said.

HOLIDAY SCHEDULE: There will be no live racing on Thanksgiving at Derby Lane, but the track will open at 10 a.m. for poker and 10:45 for simulcast wagering. A matinee-evening doubleheader is scheduled Friday.