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Monday, August 12, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Three-hundred fifty-five total victories. Sixteen greyhounds. One championship trophy.

The stage has been set for the $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge, which kicks off the 2019-2020 stakes schedule on Wednesday at Derby Lane.

Kennels have entered their best 550-yard sprinters for the first of 12 events in the Florida West Coast track’s $375,000 stakes program. The top four finishers in Races 6 (8:39 p.m.) and 10 (9:47) advance to Saturday night’s championship event. First place pays $3,200.

While Farmer Racing kennel’s Flamenco Dancer leads all entries with 56 career victories in a 141-race career, no dog has been more consistent at the current Tampa at Derby Lane meet than Deco Colt Gun of Nova kennel. The Texas invader is the meet win leader with seven wins, two more than his closest rivals.

Deco Colt Gun (box 2) and Flamenco Dancer (3) both drew into Race 6. Neither athlete has a stakes crown.

“(Deco Colt Gun) breaks fast, but he can come from off the pace,’’ Derby Lane racing secretary Les Robison said. “He’s a very strong dog. He always runs up close to the lead, if not on the lead.’’ Of Deco Colt Gun’s 21 career victories from 33 starts, he has led at every race call 15 times. His best clocking at 550 yards is 30.23 seconds on May 22.

“He came here from Texas with a litter of his brothers and sisters,’’ Robison said. “He’s by far the best one in the litter.’’

Trained by Missy Kubitz for owner David Hays, Deco Colt Gun began racing in January at Gulf Greyhound Park in La Marque, Texas – where he won twice from six starts before being moved to Derby Lane. The 2-year-old male from a litter by Deco Glen Lee and Tiger Girl has thrived under Nova kennel operators Hans and Elly Limmer.

He has won 19 of 27 starts in Florida, including victories by 13, 10 and nine lengths (three times). His average margin of victory is 5-1/2 lengths. Deco Colt Gun has a pair of career-best five-race win streaks since May 2.

One of Deco Colt Gun’s littermates, Deco Gatling Gun, is entered in Race 10 and drew box 7. He has the least amount of lifetime wins in the event with 10. Race 6 appears the most challenging qualifier with the eight starters combining for 202 career victories.

Defending meet win champion LK’s Crush N It of Lashmet kennel heads the Race 10 field. Trained by Ken Deacon for owners John and Jill Lashmet, the 32-month-old son of LK’s Now R Never and LK’s All In ranks second to Flamenco Dancer in the T.L. Weaver with 46 career wins. LK’s Crush N It (box 6) has won his past three races in box-to-wire style by a combined 24 lengths.

Cal Holland kennel, the defending T.L. Weaver champion who has won three of the past five editions, will be represented by Kentucky Prince (box 5) in Race 6.

Other starters in Race 6 from the rail include: TNT Sherlock (Patriot kennel), O Ya Smack Down (Lester Raines), Flying Mohican (Everett Racing), LK’s Santorini (Lashmet) and Son Shine (ABC Racing).

Other Race 10 starters from the rail: Super C Casino (Lester Raines), Volando Violet (Floyd), Braska Rebel (Abernathy), Flying Givenchy (Everett Racing), Rich N Famous (Farmer Racing) and Amazing Glavine (Bartley Corporation).

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.