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Friday, June 29, 2018

Derby Lane couldn’t have asked for a better setting on Saturday to wrap up its 2017-18 season.

Derbies, deservedness and drama will highlight the two 15-race performances, topped by the 92nd running of the $25,000 St. Petersburg Derby.

Besides the Derby (Race 10, 9:47 p.m.) and the $5,000 Consolation Derby (8, 9:19), a kennel championship and a top-dog title also are up for grabs. Kennel owner Cal Holland will be part of every plot.

Holland, president of the Tampa Bay Greyhound Association, has qualified a greyhound in both the Derby (Kentucky Marilyn) and the Consolation Derby (Jiminy Garnet). His operation also is challenging for a second kennel championship in the past 18 months – trailing only defending champion Bartley Corporation, 230-228, entering Friday.

For the third consecutive meet, Holland again will have the top dog. What is yet to be determined is if the veteran greyhound man will have two kennelmates sharing that honor. Holland will start Derby Lane’s two best greyhounds for the final time in the six-month meet on Saturday: RT’s Bo Jangles, the 2017 All-America first-team sprinter who has won the past two top-dog crowns; and standout Jiminy Reno. The 550-yard specialists are tied atop the win leader board at 22.

Jiminy Reno, who has won eight consecutive races and 14 of his past 15, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the matinee performance’s Race 6 (1:39 p.m.). RT’s Bo Jangles is the 5-2 early-line choice in Race 6 (8:39) on the evening program. A lifetime winner of 76 races, RT’s Bo Jangles has a four-race win streak and captured 13 of his previous 16 outings.

The last time that dogs shared a Derby Lane win title came in the July-to-December 2009 meet when Career Goals (Lester Raines kennel) and Dewey Millions (Alderson) tied at 15.

“It should be something special with RT’s Bo Jangles and Jiminy Reno going for the win title,’’ track racing secretary Les Robison said.

It has been longer since two kennels were co-champions in the win race. Filipelli & O’Donnell tied McAllister at 517 victories in the July 2008-to-June 2009 standings when Derby Lane compiled its statistics for the entire 12 months.

Cal Holland’s previous kennel title came in the January-to-June 2017 meet. Cal Holland has greyhounds entered in 27 races in the final four performances Friday and Saturday, while Bartley Corporation has starters in 31 races on those programs.

The 660-yard Derby highlights the weekend. Lashmet kennel has dominated early action with LK’s Payday, the Derby 5-2 morning-line pick, and LK’s Dodge Ram each winning their two qualifying races. LK’s Payday drew box 5 and the latter has the 6 post for kennel manager-trainer Ken Deacon, who captured the 2014 Derby with Jacks Lil Bigman.

Farmer Racing also qualified a pair of athletes with Rich N Famous (box 1) and HKF Sandy (8). Other Derby starters with posts: Lester Raines kennel’s Flying Hypatia (2); D’Arcy’s Diamond Rio (3); Kentucky Marilyn (4); and Steubenville’s TMC’s Inthamoney (7).

“It would be awesome (to win),’’ said kennel owner-trainer John Farmer, who won the 2015 Derby with HKF Crazy Horse. “It’s an honor to win a historical race like (the Derby). It seems every time I’ve been at any racetrack, the Derby has always been the highlight of the year for me.

“This is the second finals for Rich N Famous (he finished seventh in the April 7 Distance Classic). He’s a pretty consistent dog (and) he hits the (tote)board every time. Sandy can win when she gets loose early, but she’s not a real strong closer.’’

Farmer qualified multiple Derby starters despite his top entry, HKF Sponge Bob, getting eliminated in the first round.

“I thought my best shot was HKF Sponge Bob making it to the finals,’’ Farmer said. “Getting two to the finals is awesome.’’

Farmer also has a starter in the 88th edition of the Consolation Derby with MR Jewel (box 6). The remainder of the field from the rail: Swamp Yankee (Capabal kennel); TMC’s Makinmoney (Steubenville); LK’s Honolulu (Lashmet); Fiesta Toril (Floyd); Jiminy Garnet; Volando Tara (Floyd); and Figfin Ira Star (Burk Greyhounds). The Derby champion earns $11,000, and the Consolation Derby winner gets $2,200.

On Monday, the Tampa at Derby Lane six-month meet begins.

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.