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Feb 20, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A change of scenery has done wonders for Ryeit.

Competing in his first career stakes series, the ABC Racing kennel greyhound joined 15 other dogs to advance Wednesday in the $64,000 Sprint Classic at Derby Lane.

Half of the 32-dog field was eliminated, with the remaining sprinters moving on to Saturday’s third qualifying round in Races 6 (8:39 p.m.) and 10 (9:47). The Feb. 29 championship field will be determined after next Wednesday’s final qualifier. Dogs earn points in each race based on order of finish on a 16-10-8-6-3-2-1-0 scale.

First place in the 550-yard event pays $25,000.

Ryeit remained in contention with his second consecutive second-place finish to raise his point total to 20. Favored in wagering at 8-5, Ryeit overcame a tardy start to finish second by a length behind Bartley Corporation kennel’s Where U Want Me, who paid a series high $24.60 to win in 30.47 seconds and elevated his point total to 18.

“Ryeit ran well,’’ ABC Racing kennel owner Don Burk said. “He missed his break, went down to the first (turn) on the outside trying to go around (other dogs), and he closed.’’

Ryeit is one of two ABC Racing sprinters to move on. He is joined by Son Shine, who has 18 points following a second-place finish behind Lester Raines kennel’s Super C Casino, who paid $7.20 to win in 30.57 seconds. Son Shine lost by two lengths after setting the pace by four lengths early. Super C Casino has 19 points.

LK’s Crush N It of Lashmet kennel and Floyd kennel’s Shoot The Breeze both remained undefeated in the series and share the points lead at 32.

LK’s Crush N It paid $3.20 to win after clocking 30.13 seconds for his 71st lifetime victory. Shoot The Breeze won his career-best fifth race in a row and returned $3.80 to win with a career- and meet-best time of 30.00 seconds. Both dogs won by six lengths.

Ryeit, a 29-month-old male from a litter by Heyl and Elvara, has shown dramatic improvement since arriving at Derby Lane in December.

“I got him from Southland (in West Memphis, Ark.) not too long ago and he’s been a nice dog,’’ Burk said. “He’s a money maker. . . . He hits the (tote) board all the time.’’

Owned by William O’Donnell and his North Shore Kennel of Lynn (Mass.), Ryeit struggled at Southland. He made only four official starts and was schooled 10 other times from March to September in 2019. Ryeit never finished better than fourth in the maiden ranks, and was subsequently sent to the Florida West Coast track.

Ryeit has turned things around quickly at Derby Lane. After a pair of schooling races – where he finished first and second – the 72-pound dog has been a model of consistency. In 15 starts, he has only missed two paychecks (lower than a fourth-place finish) – including three wins and seven second-place showings.

His best clocking has been 30.46 seconds on Jan. 25 under trainer Joy Burk, Don’s wife.

“Everything’s got to go your way to beat those real good dogs like (LK’s) Crush N It, (LK’s) Santorini (Lashmet) and O Ya Hot Rod (Lester Raines) . . . and Shoot The Breeze is a monster,’’ Don Burk said. “(Ryeit) has got to get an 8 hole, and those other dogs have got to miss their break. You’ve got to run a perfect race, and hope they don’t.“

(Ryeit) has got 20 points, and in the next rounds, you know those other dogs will eat the points up. He’ll probably need 30 (points to advance to the finale). So a third and a fourth (in the upcoming rounds) should be all right for him.’’

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