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Friday, January 6, 2023

Last year marked 46 years of Wheeling greyhound racing.

Fans can expect another thrilling, fun-filled racing season and more excitement in 2023.

Even though the track’s featured stakes race, the $100,000 Mountaineer Classic, was not held in 2022, there were plenty of highlights on the track. A 3/8th greyhound etched his name in the record books, two West Virginia-bred stake events were contested, several greyhounds battled throughout the year for top win honors and a number of youngsters broke their Maiden and look like future stars.

Top greyhound honors went to Steve Sarras Kennel’s Florentine, who posted 22 victories. Next in line were Oshkosh Edward with 20 and Xtrem Chicken with 19 wins.

The Lester Raines Kennel, trained by Joel Roden, captured the 2022 kennel championship with 567 wins – their third straight after winning crowns in 2020 and 2021. The Blanchard Kennel took runner up honors with 516 victories.

The top highlight during the 2022 racing season was RS Big D’s streak of 13 straight 3/8th victories as the middle-distance star chased Casual Casey’s track record of 16 wins in a row.

RS Big D’s 13 straight victories tied Stage Door Ace for the longest winning streak by a 3/8th greyhound in Wheeling history. The pair share fourth on the all-time win streak list behind Casual Casey (16), Steph’s Good (15) and Win Again (14).

A February 2019 greyhound out of Oya Stan The Man-RS Hard Drive, RS Big D is the first Wheeling racer to win 10 in a row to begin a calendar year since Kiowa WW Brother in 2009. The first three of RS Big D’s 13 in a row were in December 2021.

Steph’s Good captured a record 15 straight to start the 1987 racing season.

RS Big D’s 13 straight victories were by a combined 67 lengths – a 5-length average margin of victory. He had wins by 9 ½, 8 ½, 7 ½ (twice), 7 and 5 ½ (twice) lengths during his streak.

In the $35,000 West Virginia Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association Juvenile Championship in late September, the favorite CET Barracuda (Imark Kennel) battled for the early lead with Arroyo Roxanne (Code Red Kennel) before taking charge near the far turn. CET Tiger Boy (Steve Sarras Kennel) closed strong in the stretch to take runner up honors while Arroyo Roxanne settled for third.

Completing the final order of finish were CET Sashaligotti (Steve Sarras Kennel), fourth; CET Moto Moto (Steve Sarras Kennel), fifth; CET Fernando (Imark Kennel), sixth; CET Marlin (Imark Kennel), seventh; and Mac’s Monreaux (A Ray Kennel), eighth.

In the $65,000 WVGOBA Panhandle Championship in late November, CET Dirty Dan (Steve Sarras Kennel) rushed to an early 3-length lead before holding off RS’s Dark Night (Lester Raines Kennel) by a neck at the wire. CET Marlin (Imark Kennel) rounded out the trifecta ticket.

Completing the final order of finish were CET Barracuda (Imark Kennel), fourth; CET Tiger Boy (Steve Sarras Kennel), fifth; CET Fernando (Imark Kennel), sixth; RS’s Railhauler (Lester Raines Kennel), seventh; and RS’s Dunkindylan (Lester Raines Kennel), eighth.

Wheeling will host two West Virginia-bred stakes races again in 2023, the Juvenile and the Keystone Championship. Hopefully the $100,000 Mountaineer Classic returns to the stakes calendar.

While RS Big D’s 13 victories in a row was the longest winning streak during the 2022 racing season, two other greyhounds – JS Rob Stone and CET Dirty Dan – won six straight races. Four other greyhounds captured five races in a row – Florentine, Frappe, Xtrem Chicken and JS Cold On Ice.

Several other greyhounds captured four straight victories – Marlyn Mason (twice), BGR Jaded, JS Oakietwister, Seven Summers, Oshkosh Dally, Teaser’s Tickle, O Ya Thunder Boy, Xtrem Chicken, Artex Bugaba, WW Cuddlebug and JS Big Rig.

With the closing of Iowa Greyhound Park last May and Southland Greyhound Park in Arkansas at the end of December 2022, only the two greyhound racetracks in West Virginia – Wheeling Island and Tri-State – will be operating this year.

Look for most, if not all, of the kennels in Wheeling to be dotted with former Southland greyhounds this year and the level of competition raised a few notches.

CET Dirty Dan captured the $65,000 West Virginia Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association Panhandle Championship at Wheeling Island last October. In the winner’s circle with the champion are, from left, racing manager Jack Davis, Carl Tomblin II (CET Dirty Dan owner), Summer Tomblin, racing secretary Chris Yahn, lead out Tiffany Daniels, Steve Sarras and Nikolas Sarras. (Photo by Stan Pawloski)

I was introduced to greyhound racing by a friend in the late 1970s at Wheeling Downs and fell in love with the sport and the athletes immediately. Throughout the years, I have developed a deep passion for racing. In the mid 1990s, I started writing a weekly greyhound column and shortly thereafter became a writer for The Greyhound Review.

I have enjoyed watching and writing about these wonderful competitors, including All-Americans DD's Nelson, Kiowa Sweet Trey, Gene's Champion, WW Apple Jax, Greys Royalcrown, Nimby TP Jan, Hi Noon Hero, Gable Sour Cream, KB's Ruckus and Cry Case.