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Monday, November 13, 2017

If history repeats itself, Hans Limmer won’t be complaining.

The Derby Lane kennel operator spent much of the 2016 winter in Harlingen, Texas, where he and Peter Limmer, his son, participated in the three-month Greyhound Racing Festival at Valley Race Park. At the same time at Derby Lane, his kennel was wrapping up its first win championship.

Fast forward one year later.

Limmer, 79, plans to go to Texas again in December, and his St. Petersburg operation is in position to win another kennel title. After ranking ninth in the 17-kennel standings in September, Limmer’s kennel has been on a roll. Entering this week, his Nova operation had charged into second place, trailing Bartley Corporation, 168-165. Capabal kennel, winner of the January-to-June 2014 meet for owner Henry Parker, was third - eight victories off the pace.

“It’s nice when you win the kennel title,’’ said Limmer, a native of Munich, Germany. “There’s nothing wrong with being second or third, either.’’

No kennel has won more races at Derby Lane since Nova captured its only title in the July-to-December meet in 2016. It defeated former four-time champion McAllister Racing Kennel, 274-239, for the crown. In the recent January-to-June meet, Nova finished second to first-time winner Cal Holland kennel by a 242-231 margin.

The kennel race is shaping up to be the most competitive since the July-to-December 2011 campaign, when only seven wins separated the first three operations. McAllister captured its final title that season by a 270-269 margin over Hambleton Racing. Red Oak Racing was third with 263.

Nova doesn’t have any highly-ranked greyhounds at this meet: None are in the top 10 in either wins or best clockings on the 550- or 660-yard courses. Familiarity has been behind Limmer’s success. Instead of moving greyhounds to higher-paying facilities such as Southland Park in West Memphis, Ark., Limmer keeps his dogs at Derby Lane. He and Peter Limmer raise many of Nova’s athletes at their farm in Rosebud, Texas.

“The dogs we get, we break in and keep them (at Derby Lane),’’ Hans Limmer said. “You don’t see (some other kennels) keep their dogs here a long time, but my (dogs) stay here a long time, and fans can follow them. It’s just a numbers game.’’

When Limmer leaves for Texas, Elly Limmer, his wife of 55 years, will remain in St. Petersburg to manage the operation. Trainer Miguel Valenzuela is another invaluable asset.

“(Valenzuela) is very good,’’ Limmer said. “He is consistent and a very loyal guy. You can depend on him. “We have an average kennel. (Dogs) get old quick (and) you’re always on the hunt for young and consistent dogs.’’

Don Jensen

I have been a sports writer in the newspaper industry for 40 years: working in Florida, Maryland and Virginia. I moved to Florida in 1984 after serving as the publicity director of Charles Town Race Track, a thoroughbred facility in West Virginia. I reside in Tampa, Fla., and cover the Tampa Bay area parimutuel scene – both greyhounds and thoroughbreds – and write about high school sports for the Tampa Bay Times.