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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Eight greyhounds started Saturday in the 1925 Historical Inaugural Stakes at Derby Lane. It didn’t take long for the $18,000 sprint to become a two-dog race.

John Valazquez of Capabal kennel got the early jump on heavy favorite RT’s Bo Jangles, and never let the advantage shrink the rest of the way for his first stakes title. It was Derby Lane’s first stakes race of 2018.

Breaking from the No. 4 hole, John Valazquez sped to a two-length lead 50 yards out of the starting box. He won by that margin over RT’s Bo Jangles, reaching the finish line in 30.35 seconds on the lightning-fast 550-yard course.

“When he hit the turn, we knew he was a winner,’’ Capabal kennel owner Henry Parker said.

John Valazquez’s 38th lifetime victory from 89 starts extended a white-hot streak for the son of Dragon Fire and Awesome Fling, who celebrates his third birthday on Jan. 24. It was his 23rd in-the-money finish in his past 24 starts with top-four showings, including 14 wins and seven seconds. He paid $14.40 to win as the third wagering choice. The $7,700 first-place prize elevated his career earnings to more than $28,000.

“You got to get out there and keep going,’’ trainer Belinda Parker said. “Obviously, you had to be concerned about the 1 dog (RT’s Bo Jangles). I was happy when (RT’s Bo Jangles) broke behind him.’’

John Valazquez, the second-leading winner at the previous July-to-December meet, is owned by Kathleen Thurber of Vernon, Fla. Raymond Thurber, her husband and long-time greyhound owner, died of undisclosed causes on Sept. 11. He was 74.

The Parkers’ previous stakes win also came with a Thurber greyhound: Caitlyn Stoodard in the $5,000 St. Petersburg Consolation Derby on June 30.

RT’s Bo Jangles, the dual-stakes champion and two-time defending meet win leader, was the 2-5 wagering favorite. He was denied his 55th lifetime victory. No other challenger was close. Third-place finisher Volando Orange (Burk Greyhounds kennel) was five lengths behind RT’s Bo Jangles. The remaining order of finish: Wall Nut (ABC Racing), SE’s Wepon X (Nova), Flamenco Dancer (Farmer Racing), Barts Mr Peabody (Bartley Corporation) and CTW Party Animal (Clear The Way Kennels).

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.