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Monday, June 29, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – For nearly two years, a bull’s-eye has been attached to LK’s Crush N It.

The Lashmet kennel standout greyhound has been an All-America first-team selection and national wins champion – both in 2019 – and a winner of five lifetime stakes titles.

On Tuesday afternoon, LK’s Crush N It has a target of his own to shoot at during the final performance of the Derby Lane 2019-20 season.

A victory in Race 10 would allow the 3-1/2-year-old son of LK’s Now R Never and LK’s All In to tie Floyd kennel’s Shoot The Breeze for top dog honors at the January-to-June meet.

It would complete an unprecedented accomplishment at the 95-year-old track. No greyhound is believed to have captured three consecutive meet win titles.

“I don’t think it’s ever been done – three consecutive (times) of being the win leader,’’ Derby Lane racing secretary Les Robison said. “It hasn’t been (done) since I’ve been here. . . . and I’ve been around the track since ’71 - either as a patron or employee.

“That would be exciting if he could do that. It would just be one more laurel that he would have.’’

LK’s Crush N It, who would raise his career win total to 79 with a victory, enters the Grade A 550-yard event with 14 victories for the meet, one behind Shoot The Breeze – who hasn’t raced since June 13. LK’s Crush N It has won his past two races and drew box 5 in Race 10, slated for 2:47 p.m. The 75-pound dog is the 5-2 morning-line favorite.

Trained by kennel manager Ken Deacon, LK’s Crush N It has been Derby Lane’s top dog in each of the past two meets – amassing 50 victories during that span to lead all greyhounds nationally in total wins for 2019. The 550-yard specialist is owned by breeders John and Jill Lashmet of Eaton, Colo.

LK’s Crush N It is the third consecutive dog with back-to-back meet win championships, joining Jiminy Reno (2018) and RT’s Bo Jangles (2017) – both from Cal Holland kennel. Other Derby Lane dogs to equal that feat since at least 2004 include Abernathy kennel’s Husker Magic (2014-15), and Venus Espinosa (2012-13) of Patriot kennel.

This will be the first meet win title for Shoot The Breeze, a 32-month-old male from a litter by Trent Lee and Danicas Go Daddy. Owned by Charles Haliburton, Shoot The Breeze sprints for kennel owners Randy and Pat Floyd – whose previous meet win leader was Hometown Boy in 2007.

The top kennel in wins will be Lester Raines, which entered Monday with an insurmountable 195-172 lead over ABC Racing. It will be Lester Raines’ first championship since 2010. Jennifer Richardson, who started the meet as the kennel manager and trainer, has subsequently moved to Virginia for family reasons with the operation currently being handled by Anthony Diaz.

The meet’s fastest times have been clocked by Shoot The Breeze (30.00 seconds at 550 yards) and Lester Raines’ O Ya Diesel (37.01 seconds at 660 yards).

The Derby Lane meet was reduced to 131 performances after losing 49 programs because of the coronavirus pandemic. No racing was held from March 20-May 7.

Robison said all 14 kennels remain on the roster for the upcoming July-to-December meet.

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.