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Stan Pawloski

Jan 24, 2023

Sprint star Rob Gronkowski was in the national spotlight in 2013-14, earning All-American honors both years and the captaincy of the 2013 team while racing at Palm Beach and Southland.

Now, one of his offspring, Florentine, is making headlines at Wheeling Island.

In Florentine’s first full season of racing in 2022, the sprinter captured the Wheeling track win championship with 22 victories to earn top greyhound honors. Oshkosh Edward was runner up with 20 wins while Seven Summers and Xtrem Chicken both posted 19 victories.

Florentine, a February 2020 greyhound out of Rob Gronkowski-PJ Sour Diesel, races out of the Steve Sarras Kennel at Wheeling. Both Florentine and Rob Gronkowski are owned by Sarras.

“When Florentine broke in at Wheeling (late 2021), I thought she had the potential to be a really nice Grade AA greyhound. As for being the track win leader, we didn’t start paying attention until late in the season when she was among the leaders,” Sarras said. “She’s the first win leader I have ever had and being a daughter of Gronk, the best greyhound I have ever owned, makes it even more special. To win 22 races against the level of competition at Wheeling is quite an accomplishment. I am so proud of her.”

Florentine started the 2022 campaign rather slowly – her fourth win of the year didn’t come until mid-April. She had two victories in January, none in February, one in March and her fourth on April 14.

In late April through early June, Florentine caught fire. The speedster captured seven out of nine Grade AA races, including five in a row at one point.

“She can be a streaky greyhound. Florentine locked horns with a lot of the other win leaders in some of her races, so to post five straight victories was pretty impressive,” Sarras said.

It was the first of three hot streaks Florentine had in 2022.

In late August into September, she won four out of five Grade AA trips and during a stretch in October through early December, she had 5 wins and 5 seconds in 12 Grade AA races. The late surge put Florentine atop the win leaderboard.

Like her father, Rob Gronkowski, Florentine’s game is getting into her races quickly.

“She’s not the greatest breaker but has a tremendous rush to the corner. Her biggest strength is her rush. All she needs is a clean lane to the first turn,” Sarras said. “Gronk could break last in a race, but still rush to the top by the first turn. Gronk had and Florentine has a lot of grit.”

Sarras prefers Florentine draw an outside post.

“Although she can rush from any hole with an opening, I like her on the outside where nothing can slash down on her,” Sarras said. “She gives everything she has and sometimes when she exerts so much energy going to the first turn, she can come up a little short in the stretch.”

In addition to her speed, Florentine possesses track sense and desire. “She’s a smart greyhound who picks and chooses her spots. To win that many races, you got to have racing smarts as well as talent and luck,” Sarras said. “She’s has a lot of desire.

She knows when it’s race time and she lives for the moment.”

Florentine started out 2023 with a bang, winning her first three starts by 5, 3 ½ and 2 ½ lengths.

While Florentine topped the leader board with 22 victories, 19 other greyhounds won at least 12 races in 2022 at Wheeling Island.

The 2022 Wheeling Island win leaderboard and kennel follows:

22 – Florentine (Steve Sarras)

20 – Oshkosh Edward (Charter)

19 – Seven Summers (Charter), Xtrem Chicken (Xtrem Hess Racing)

18 – Imark Trixie (Imark)

17 – Jack Parkman (Charter)

15 – SNL Sir Liam (Lester Raines), Atta Boy Angus (Charter), Loyal Cmn In Hot (Blanchard), BGR Jaded (Brad Boeckenstedt)

14 – CET Dirty Dan (Steve Sarras), JS Slush Fund (Lester Raines), JS Makeitsnappy (Lester Raines), O Ya Paws (Code Red)

13 – SNL Ramey (Lester Raines), JS Rob Stone (Blanchard), Marlyn Mason (Jacobs Racing), Saber Enzo (Imark)

12 – RS Big D (Lester Raines), Frappe (Blanchard).


Steve Sarras Kennel’s Florentine was the track win champion at Wheeling Island in 2022 with 22 victories. The sprinter is held by Nikolas Sarras.

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