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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

One element will link Derby Lane to its 94th year of operation.

A 12-race stakes program totaling $375,000.

Beginning in August, Derby Lane will entertain stakes racing for the final 11 months of its 2018-19 season. The richest race – the $75,000 Distance Classic for 660-yard athletes – will be one of six events in 2019, when the iconic track celebrates its 94th birthday on Jan. 3. The other stakes will be contested in the current season designated as the Tampa at Derby Lane meet which concludes Dec. 31.

The stakes schedule is identical to last year’s activity with all races in the same places on the calendar. This is the third year since stakes action was revised.

“It’s going fine and we’re keeping everything status quo,’’ Derby Lane five-year director of racing Les Robison said. “(The kennels) all like it. It’s their chance to give their dogs some recognition with a stakes win. . . . besides the reason of earning a little bit more extra money.’’

Eight stakes, including the first five, will be contested at 550 yards – starting with the $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge on Aug. 15-18. The other four stakes will be held on the 660-yard course with the $70,000 Holiday Distance Challenge on Dec. 8-22 the only distance event before 2019. The longest-running stakes race is the $18,000 1925 Historical Inaugural, which enters its 94th year. That 550-yard sprint on Jan. 2-5 is Derby Lane’s first stakes race in 2019.

When the stakes schedule was changed in 2016-17, 10 kennels won titles. Seven kennels won stakes races last season, including Cal Holland and Capabal with three apiece. Lashmet finished with a pair of crowns, both coming on Derby Lane’s final day of the season June 30 in the $25,000 St. Petersburg Derby and $5,000 Consolation Derby. Other kennels to win stakes titles were Farmer Racing, Patriot, Rangel and Steubenville.

That balance may be challenged this year by new kennel owner Kelly Everett, who joined the Derby Lane roster on May 2 after a sensational run in the southern part of Florida where he said he won the past seven kennel championships at Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track in Bonita Springs and its sister facility, Flagler in Miami.

“(Everett) has brought a good kennel to Derby Lane,’’ Robison said. “He’s going to have some quality dogs in (stakes) as well as quantity.’’

His Everett Racing operation has started the new Derby Lane meet on fire, winning at least one race in the first 25 performances since July 2 to lead the 15-kennel standings.

Eleven stakes finals will be contested on Saturday night. The exception is the $20,000 Remembrance, a 550-yards stakes for young pups on May 11-27. That championship race will highlight the Memorial Day matinee performance.

The stakes schedule:

Aug. 15-18 - $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge (550 yards); Sept. 15-29 - $50,000 Husker Magic Fall Sprint (550); Oct. 6-13 - $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile (550); Oct. 24-27 - $10,000 Howl-O-Ween (550); Nov. 21-24 - $10,000 Thanksgiving (550); Dec. 8-22 - $70,000 Holiday Distance Challenge (660); Jan. 2-5 - $18,000 1925 Historical Inaugural (550); Feb. 16-March 2 - $64,000 Sprint Classic (550); March 23-April 6 - $75,000 Distance Classic (660); May 11-27 - $20,000 Remembrance (550); June 19-29 - $5,000 St. Petersburg Consolation Derby (660); June 19-29 - $25,000 St. Petersburg Derby (660).

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.