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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Racing strategy for Cabao is always the same.

Take a quick step out of the starting box, establish an early lead, and carry that speed to the finish line.

The plan doesn’t work every time. When it does, watch out.

“When she’s hit the front, she hasn’t been caught,’’ Derby Lane racing secretary Les Robison said. “If she gets a clean spot of going around the (first) turn, she’s tough.’’

The D’Arcy kennel sprinter is expected to be one of the greyhounds to seriously contend in the $50,000 Husker Magic Fall Sprint that begins Saturday night at Derby Lane.

The 550-yard stakes, formerly called the Fall Sprint, was renamed two years ago to honor the retired three-time All-America first-team sprinter, who won 105 races from 2013-16 for Derby Lane kennel owners Jim and Kayruth Abernathy. Four qualifying rounds precede the Sept. 29 championship race. First place pays $22,000.

“It’s going to be an interesting stakes race,’’ Robison said. “There’s six or seven dogs that on any given day – depending on the break, the start of the race – could slide in (to win).’’

Cabao is one of those dogs.

Trained by kennel owner Mick D’Arcy for owner Robert Hardison of Onawa, Iowa, Cabao has found her groove after a two-month layoff. Since returning to action July 6, the 29-month-old female from a litter by SH Avatar and Blackstone has captured nine of 16 races to rank third in the current meet win standings behind the powerful Cal Holland kennel duo of All-America first-team member RT’s Bo Jangles and Jiminy Reno, both among the 32-dog field.

Cabao’s best clockings on the 550-yard course have been 30.11 and 30.18 seconds – third and sixth best, respectively, in the meet. She has 16 victories from 35 lifetime starts.

“She’s the kind of dog that if she gets the lead, she’s real tough,’’ Robison said. “Her only drawback would be getting in with a bunch of early speed right around her. That might hinder her start a little bit.’’

Cabao made an immediate impression when starting her career this past February. She won her two schooling races by margins of 15 and 25 lengths, and finished first in four of her first five official starts to advance to Grade A. Cabao proceeded to win twice in her next four outings, but lost nine of her following 10 outings and subsequently given two months off.

“When she first started, she did very well,’’ Robison said. “Then she hit a brick wall and (D’Arcy) took her off for a while.’’

Cabao drew box 6 in Race 10 at 10 p.m. for her first-round Husker Magic qualifier.

Jiminy Reno starts in Race 4 at 8:18 p.m. and RT’s Bo Jangles is in Race 6 at 8:52.

Other top challengers include Nova kennel’s SE’s Wepon X and Farmer Racing’s Flamenco Dancer, both in Race 4. The other qualifier is Race 8 at 9:26.

“SE’s Wepon X has got the meet’s top two times (29.98 and 30.05),’’ Robison said. “When (SE’s Wepon X) hits the front, it’s ‘Adios.’ Flamenco Dancer has had a run of wins (two four-race wins streaks from her past 11 starts).’’

Qualifying continues Wednesday, when the top 16 dogs with the most accumulative points advance. The point system for each qualifier is based on a 16-10-8-6-3-2-1-0 scale.

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.