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Thursday, February 8, 2018

The 2018 edition of the Orange Park Derby ran on Saturday evening February 3rd at bestbet Jacksonville, and what a race it was. We had an extremely talented field that features former stakes winners, several multi-round victors, some cagey veterans, some converted sprinters, and even a greyhound that went undefeated during qualifying. All these competitors would have made this race ultra-tough to pick, but when the post positions were drawn, things changed. Half the field got the boxes they wanted, the other half did not, and it made for some clear selections heading into this final round race.

As lure rattled down the backside and announcer Joe Ross bellowed out “Here Comes Russttyyy!”, the box popped, and we were off in the finals of the 2018 $20,000 Orange Park Derby. Several greyhounds came to run, and it made for a herd vying to get their nose in front at the start of this effort. Critics Choice was out first, but only by a nose over Boc’s Queen Lady, Drink It Off, and Boc’s All I Got. As this crowded bunch proceeded to the turn, it was almost unenviable that something was going to happen. Sitting on the rail, Boc’s Queen Lady had the position that some were trying to get to, and that caused some trouble for some, and advantages for others. Colliding with Boc’s All I Got and sending her out into a couple of other greyhounds, namely Critics Choice and later back into Pat C Bona, and causing traffic in the middle, she gave the favorites time and position to score. Circling the trouble midtrack and taking advantage of the mishaps of the others was Drink It Off. Seizing control as they turned up the frontside, Drink It Off became the one to beat. He was not the only greyhound to get a benefit from all the trouble in the turn. Undefeated qualifier, Craigie Javier, rallied after a slower break and slipped by on the rail to come out ahead of the rest of the field just behind Drink It Off’s pace. Both were just ahead of Boc’s All I Got, and post time favorite Craigie Avatar, who broke last and found room on the rail to skirt the trouble and move into chasing position. Down the frontside they went for the first time and Drink It Off was breezing up front with a 2-length lead over Craigie Javier. Boc’s Queen Lady was next and a distance fourth was Craigie Avatar, as the rest of the field tried to gather themselves and make another run at the leaders. Around the turn and down the backside they went, with the order staying the same. Drink It Off was setting a strong pace up front with Javier and Queeny chasing, as Avatar started to make up some ground. By the 660 box and leaders remained the same, still 2 lengths clear, still Drink It Off in the lead, but they would start hearing footsteps behind them as Craigie Avatar had picked up Boc’s Queen Lady and now was a closing third. Through the final turn and down the stretch they went, and it was apparent to all standing and watching, that this race was over. Drink It Off put it in another gear and was not going to be denied in this effort. Striding out with every step, he looked stronger and stronger the closer he got to the finish line. Crossing almost 4 lengths to the clear, he was crowned the champ and the Drinks were on him at the wire. The real race turned out to be for place. Javier dug in deep, but no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t keep up with the leader as they raced toward the wire. Craigie Avatar put in her usual work in the stretch and came with a huge rush at the end of the race. Granted it would be too late to catch the leader, but not to get her half-namesake before the wire. With one final surge, she jetted by at the finish to steal away 2nd place for the always chasing Javier at the finish line. Completing the superfecta was the steady gaining Pat C Bona, who overcame double trouble early on to find a spot in the money at the finish line. Rounding out the race was early threat Boc’s Queen Lady in 5th, Like A Boss in 6th, Critics Choice in 7th, and Boc’s All I Got In last. Congratulations to the Double J Kennel, Kennel Owner Jim Blanchard, Trainer Chris Maynard, Owner Kate Bartley, and everyone else connected with this fantastic greyhound. Talk about your dual distance threat! We all need to remember that he lost by a half a length to his brother, Fix A Drink, in the finals of the 2017 Holiday Sprint Stakes, and now he has a championship over 660 yards. Up next for sure for this pup will be the 2018 James J Patton Silver Cup that will feature a purse of $75,000. Good luck and continued success from this stupendous greyhound.