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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tom Ferris knew it wouldn’t be easy to compete at the highest level as he accepted a contract to race at Southland Park at the first of the year. Different track design and track surface plus the “odd” distances raced here as compared to most tracks were just a couple of obstacles to overcome and get used to. Competing against a lot of the best dogs on a night in, night out basis was also a reality where instead of just racing your best 20 greyhounds in a couple of kennels through a lease agreement, you are now faced with fielding an entire kennel of up to 78 greyhounds against 16 different kennel operations.

Evidently it wasn’t an issue after all.

The A Ray Kennel made a splash with his youngest talent recently in the $25,000 Spring Futurity Stakes qualifying during the month of April, eventually fielding half of the eight finalists for the championship held Saturday afternoon, May 6th. Three of the finalists were out of an impressive litter fathered by former Southland great DJAYS OCTANE out of BUDZ TRIX. These three brothers combined for eight qualifying wins, a second and three show efforts and were among the points leaders once the finals field was determined. AMF TRIXRFORKIDZ not only had a catchy name, but was proving more difficult to catch as the qualifying rounds progressed. After a respectable third place effort in opening round action, he rattled off an improving second place finish in round two then powered home the final two qualifying races with impressive victories in each (one by 7 lengths!). His brother, AMF TRIXTER and his other brother, AMF DIRTY TRIX, were the only two finalists that were able to capture three victories in the four qualifying rounds (won the same rounds oddly enough) and both had a third place effort as well (round 2 action). The “TRIX BOYZ” as they have recently been dubbed would likely garner a lot of attention by the bettors come the 16th race that day.

The other Tom Ferris owned entry was PJ FORCE FACTOR. Also sired by DJAYS OCTANE, this white and black male was mothered by PEPPERED BAKIN and narrowly missed being able to boast about having three qualifying wins as well. Only a late dash in round three by fellow finalist PAY TREE IT foiled that plan, as he settled for second that day after being unable to hold the lead to the wire. Still, two victories, as well as a second and third place finish cemented his spot in the finals.

The remaining four spots in the field were held by four different kennels, with stakes finalist veteran trainer Stephen Ulrich claiming a spot with PJ LOVEGONEWRONG for the Charter Kennel. A little luck came into play here as this also DJAYS OCTANE sired daughter was on the outside of the bubble looking in originally, finishing ninth in qualifying points. However, a mid-week scratch of another A RAY finalist PJ MONEY WALK, vaulted her into the championship race, despite being the only greyhound in the field without a victory during qualifying. Don’t take not winning a race as a sign of weakness, however, as she just missed by a nose and a neck combined in the first two qualifying rounds from having a couple of victories to boast about.

Lester Raines and trainer Ken Lesperance streaked into the championship with, you guessed it, yet another finalist sired by DJAYS OCTANE by the name of STREAKING JET. This rail running hound not only had the fewest career starts of anyone in the championship field, but was just recently in grade “D” two starts before qualifying began. The brindle male has a penchant for late finishes using his powerful closing run to nail a nice win and a couple of second place finishes to earn the points needed to race that afternoon.

Magic City Kennel and veteran trainer Monte Hoopes earned a spot in the dance with JS ALLEYESONME. She was one of only two females to make the finals, but the daughter out of SH AVATAR and JS KERRY OKI was as steady as you could be for trio of owners Gramm, Armington and Ametrano. A win, second and a third was just enough to race against the big boys and the outside starting post for the championship race would seem to suit her midtrack to wide running style.

Finally, Northshore Kennel and trainer Arvestor Crawford earned the final spot in the big race with a greyhound sired by another Southland Park former “greyt”, SOPRANO DRIVE. PAY TREE IT was never further off the win by more than 3 lengths during the qualifying rounds, earning a victory and three close show finishes. Much like JS ALLEYESONME, the black and yellow stripes of post eight in the championship race would play to her midtrack to wide running style, setting up a good finals race for everyone to see.

A packed house on tap for the Kentucky Derby got to see an appetizer of how exciting stakes racing is when the 16th race of the matinee performance hit the track at Southland. The bettors favorite concentrated on AMF TRIXRFORKIDZ, who parlayed a nice qualifying record along with the #1 post to potentially earn his backers just over even money to win the race. A little more shocking was PAY TREE IT, even with his favorite #8 box coming back at just over 3 to 1 odds despite only winning one race during qualifying. No matter how you sliced it, due to the competitive balance of the field, nice prices could be found everywhere it seemed and that drove the mutuel pools to the second highest bet race of the 18 races that afternoon.

And the fans got a great show too. Wasting little time once the lid opened to start the race, #2 PJ FORCE FACTOR found all the room he could want to his right which allowed him to take advantage of a great start to the race to get clear and the lead early on. #1 PJ FORCE FACTOR was all alone on the rail and #7 JS ALLEYESONME also used her starting position to her advantage coming straight out the box in strong fashion going into the first turn. All in all, it was a clean start to the race and the field all moved to their favored spots as the race moved along to the pivotal first turn.

While the first turn certainly wasn’t absent of issues, other than some traffic congestion and slight bumping between AMF DIRTY TRIX (#5) and JS ALLEYESONME (#7), it was one of the cleanest turns you will see involving a who filed of youngsters. PJ FORCE FACTOR was certainly using his force upon the field, opening up a nice four length lead on the rest of the field, with the closest being #1 AMF TRIXRFORKIDZ who held a slim lead for second place on the rest of the field entering the backstretch run. The field started to spread out some with #8 PAY TREE IT using a big burst and a clear outside running lane to close the gap on the lead dogs.

In the far turn heading into the homestretch run, PJ FORCE FACTOR’s lead was slipping away slowly, however the three length advantage was still plenty with time and distance running out. A neck and neck battle for second was ensuing between PAY TREE IT and AMF TRIXRFORKIDZ, while another battle for fourth was taking shape with PJ LOVEGONEWRONG, JS ALLEYEONME and STREAKING JET. The crowd noise level began to increase markedly as the pack swung for the finish line with PJ FORCE FACTOR earning the victory by a comfortable three lengths ahead of a photo finish battle for second. Once the photo was shown, PAY TREE IT ended up just a hundredth of a second quicker than AMF TRIXRFORKIDZ who settled for third. STREAKING JET earned fourth place honors followed by PJ LOVEGONEWRONG (5th), JS ALLEYESONME (6th), AMF TRIXTER (7th) and AMF DIRTY TRIX rounded out the field.

PJ FORCE FACTOR earned A RAY KENNEL their first stakes championship at Southland Park for trainer Scott Robinette and kennel owner Tom Ferris. The greyhound also owned by Tom Ferris. The victory earned his backers a nice $16.80 to win and anchored a $22.60 quiniela return with runner-up PAY TREE IT. The winning time of 32.12 was the fastest time for the matinee performance over that distance.

Shane Bolender