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Monday, August 13, 2018

If John Farmer needs any reminder of his stunning victory in the 2017 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge at Derby Lane, all he has to do is look in the direction of HKF Betty Lou.

The brindle-colored female remains in the Farmer Racing kennel, not far from the 550-yard track where she scored Derby Lane’s biggest stakes final upset in at least 16 years. The longest shot at 25-1 odds broke first from the No. 3 box in the track’s first stakes of the season and never trailed, paying $52.20 for a $2 win ticket.

“I knew she had to get the front to even have a chance,’’ Farmer said. “That’s all it took, because she’s tough to catch.’’

The setting is similar this week for Farmer, who sends another fast-starting female – Flamenco Dancer - to the starting box in Derby Lane’s first of 12 stakes races in the 2018-19 season. The T.L. Weaver kicks off Wednesday with a pair of qualifying races in Races 6 (8:52 p.m.) and 10 (10 p.m.). The top four finishers in each event move on to the Saturday night championship race with the winner earning $3,200 from the $8,000 purse.

Flamenco Dancer, who drew the No. 1 box in Race 6, carries the longest current win streak in the field of 16 at four – a career-high. The 31-month-old daughter of Barcelona Boss and Lets Go Flying is an early speed dog with 14 of her 21 lifetime victories in box-to-wire style.

“She’ll go to the front and she likes to pace with the lead dogs,’’ Farmer said. “The worst thing (for Flamenco Dancer) being a pacer is that, sometimes, she’ll pace the lead dog and there’s a strong closer behind her - who may surprise her and go by when she’s pacing with another dog.’’

Winning the 23rd edition of the T.L Weaver will be challenging for Flamenco Dancer, who is seeking to reach her fifth stakes final from seven attempts (her best showing was a second in the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile in 2017).

Cal Holland kennel has entered arguably the track’s top two sprinters in defending meet win champion Jiminy Reno (Race 6) and 2017 All-America first-team member RT’s Bo Jangles (10).

“I think (Flamenco Dancer) can run with any dog,’’ Farmer said. “The best dog at the track right now is Jiminy Reno. He can go to the front or come off the pace. . . . He’s pretty tough.’’

Flamenco Dancer has been responsible for four of Farmer Racing’s five Grade A wins at the meet that started July 2. She is owned by Brooke Busby, Sharon Dippel, Monte Jacobs and Misty Markel.

“(Winning the T.L. Weaver) would be a highlight for the owners more than anything,’’ Farmer said. “(Busby, Dippel and Markel) run a greyhound support transport, and I would really like to see them in the winner’s circle.

“They’ve shown up for every stakes race that (Flamenco Dancer) has entered. . . . It would really be nice to see them getting their picture taken.’’

No kennel has won the T.L. Weaver in back-to-back years.

RT’s Bo Jangles, a two-time stakes winner who finished third in the 2017 T.L. Weaver as the 2-5 favorite, enters the event with 81 career victories.

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.