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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Long Distance Divisions Launch Biggest Stakes Event In The Country

The twelfth running of the richest stakes event in the country kicked off this past weekend at Southland Casino & Racing when three out of the nine divisions of the Festival of Stakes began qualifying for spots on Championship Day in early October.

The $150,000 Ness Sechrest Middle Distance Division, the $125,000 Ansel Styles, Jr. Marathon Division and the $100,000 Glen Fenter Super Marathon Division each launched opening round qualifying on Saturday evening. As in most stakes race qualifying, there were a few favorites, a few surprises and a couple of flat out upsets in each division.

In the 820 yard super marathon division, it looked to be business as usual for the favorites as the first of four races at that distance was won by super favorite B TIGGER (Lester Raines Kennel) who used his late speed to pull away easily from the rest of the field by 5 ½ lengths as the seventy cents on the dollar favorite. The “favorites” trend ended rather abruptly the very next race when Robert Thorne Kennel’s SUPERIOR ONEX went box to wire and paid $43.60 to win, producing the highest win ticket payoff of the evening while running the second fastest time on the course of the night (was off by just .03 of a second). Overall division favorite SARKAZUM (Northshore Kennel) continued his winning ways in the 15th race of the night, but getting up at the wire by just a head and catching PAT C NITTI to avoid back to back upsets. The division wrapped up the first round in race 17 when third favorite FGF NIGHT MOVES (Charter Kennel, Inc.) powered home and overcame a duel with DILLY DILLY to win by 3 ½ going away and setting the fastest time of the night at 46.73 seconds.

In the 703 yard marathon division, six first round races kicked off in race 3 when race favorite TAKIN N INTEREST (Plum Creek) tied the largest win margin of the night when she destroyed the filed by 6 ½ going away. Three races later, T and T Kennel’s XT’S DOMINATOR overcame a midpack start to grind out a 2 ½ length win in a 7 greyhound field over the race favorite SHOOTER STAR who did good to just hold on to third. Races 9 and 10 hosted the next two qualifying races in this division with OSHKOSH ICEBERG (Charter Kennel, Inc.) holding off XM COCO in an exciting finish by just a head and rewarding her backers with a $16.60 win price in the earlier event. The later event wasn’t nearly as exciting as GEORGE MARSHALL (Legg Greyhound Kennel) made easy work of his race winning by 6 ½ lengths in a near box to wire effort. The last two races in this division saw PCH FAITH IN U (Mike Harris Kennel) winning a tough race in race 15 by a solid 2 lengths most of the way around the track as the betting favorite while the swan song of the evening (race 18) was won by AMF PAID UP LOAN (A Ray Kennel) who won box to wire, but was pressured throughout the race, especially late, by two other rivals.

The 660 yard middle distance division has some of the deepest talent in all nine divisions, and the seven races that hosted the first round of qualifying surely showed that depth. Right off the bat in race 1 of the evening, PUNTA CALETA (Gloria Dorsey Kennel) scampered in near box to wire style for a 5 length victory in a fairly even field. WW JOHN FLORENCE (Wayne R. Ward, Inc.) won the second half of the daily double by winning in box to wire fashion in race 2 as the third favorite of the race, beating race favorite AMERICAN ANDALE (finished fifth) and FLYING HANDSOME who garnered some attention from the #1 box but did not break well and encountered trouble early on. Magic City Kennel served up the first longshot of the race, but it shouldn’t have probably came to that. CHEROKEE FIDDLE made it look easy in race 5 winning without really any competition and returning $33.20 for those who forgot he was already a stakes winner this season (Hound Madness).

ARKANS PURPLE (Darren Henry) recorded an exciting win coming from fourth in the far turn to win at the wire by a mere ½ length over favorite MESS ME UP who was charging home as well. FLYING DIVERGENT was the early leader in that race, but faded from first to last in the last quarter of the race. Race 8 saw an unknown grab a near box to wire win by the name of JW MUTLEY (Darren Henry Kennel). Haven’t heard that name before? Not many people have as that race was probably one of the weaker, but most evenly matched races of the evening. Trainer Stephen Ulrich sent the biggest longshot in the division to win that night to the winner’s circle in race 11 when BARTS BAR TENDER nearly lost every inch of his four length lead to hold on by just a nose over XM STRIDE N and race favorite BRACKLEY BITES in the evening’s best overall finish to a race. That “nose” was just enough to return $41.20 to his backers who had to hold their breath for a few minutes until the photo finish results were posted. The final qualifying race occurred in race 16 when DYENUHMITE (Northshore Kennel) broke sharp and went box to wire from the #1 post at nearly 7 to 1 odds, stopping the clock at 37.23.

Six divisions have yet to kick off, but will shortly starting as early as this Friday (September 13) when the $175,000 Darby Henry Male Sprint, $175,000 Darby Henry Female Sprint and $80,000 Arkansas Bred Sprint Divisions open their qualifying. Household names like SALUD RAINDROP (track win leader, stakes winner), KONOMI, MRL FULL BOAT and LR IOWA CHOICE go head to head in their respective divisions. The next day (Saturday), round 2 action in all the longer distance divisions will be held and then on Sunday, the final three divisions start their qualifying when the $80,000 Arkansas Bred Juvenile, the $100,000 Barry Baldwin Juvenile and the $100,000 Crittenden Super Sprint kick off.

In total, $1.3 million dollars in added purse will be decided on “Festival of Stakes Championship Saturday”, set to be held as part of a special single Saturday performance on October 5th. Post time for that day will be at 3pm and host all nine championship races, all nine consolation races and two other high quality races. If you are a fan of the best of greyhound racing, that day will be your day to not miss!

The list of qualifying rounds for each “group” are as follows:

Group “A” – Middle Distance, Marathon and Super Marathon Division

- 2nd round – Saturday, September 14

- 3rd round – Saturday, September 21

- Semi-finals – Saturday, September 28

Group “B” – Darby Henry Male Sprint, Darby Henry Female Sprint, Arkansas Bred Sprint

- 1st round – Friday, September 13

- 2nd round – Wednesday, September 18

- 3rd round – Monday, September 23

- Semi-finals – Saturday, September 28

Group “C” – Arkansas Bred Juvenile, Barry Baldwin Juvenile, Crittenden Super Sprint

- 1st round – Sunday, September 15

- 2nd round – Friday, September 20

- 3rd round – Wednesday, September 25

- Semi-finals – Monday, September 30

Shane Bolender