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Mar 3, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – LK’s Crush N It couldn’t be missed during his historic Leap Day victory at Derby Lane.

It was more of a challenge to find him moments later in the post-race celebration, where the Lashmet kennel superstar was surrounded in the track infield by a group of 22 posing for photographs.

“Friends, family and kids that I coached in Little League,’’ kennel manager and trainer Ken Deacon said, referring to individuals comprising the entourage.

A year after becoming only the second greyhound to win the $64,000 Sprint Classic with five consecutive victories – four in qualifying and one in the title race – LK’s Crush N It separated himself from previous greats that have run at the 95-year-old facility.

Never before had a greyhound won Derby Lane’s most prestigious 550-yard stakes race twice.

“First time in 95 years to win two Sprint Classics in a row,’’ Deacon said after LK’s Crush N It blew away some of the track’s top sprinters with a seven-length victory.

Actually, the Sprint Classic is only 45 years old. But everyone knew what Deacon meant.

Since Montague Maze of Moses-Crawford kennel won the first Sprint Classic in 1976, none of the ensuing champions managed to pull off LK’s Crush N It’s feat.

“Words can’t describe how I feel about this dog,’’ Deacon said. “Yeah, I’m emotional.

“It’s crazy. . . . I’ve seen some nice dogs here. He’s the best dog I’ve ever touched in 50 years.’’

Lashmet kennel also is the first operation in a decade to repeat as the Sprint Classic champion since McAllister kennel in 2009-10. Only five kennels have won at least two titles consecutively.

Greymeadow (1998-2000) won the crown three times, while E.J. Alderson (1988-89) and Darby Henry (1983-84) were back-to-back champions.

Deacon, 67, a native of Rochester, N.Y., has been with LK’s Crush N It throughout the dog’s racing career that began on Sept. 5, 2018, with a 13-length victory as a maiden. The 39-month-old male from a litter by LK’s Now R Never and LK’s All In has won 73 of 103 starts, and the $25,000 first-place prize elevated his lifetime bankroll to $131,125.

LK’s Crush N It, the 2019 national win leader and Derby Lane’s two-time reigning meet win leader, also collected his fifth stakes championship overall - first in 2020. He is the first Derby Lane athlete to win five stakes at the track since Flying Coal City in 2010-11.

Flying Coal City, a dual-distance performer for McAllister kennel, went on to claim greyhound racing’s Triple Crown in 2010 for owner Vince Berland of Abilene, Kan. He was the Rural Rube winner (nation’s best sprinter), the Flashy Sir winner (sport’s top distance performer), and the All-America captain.

“Crush N It is just a nice greyhound – very consistent,’’ Deacon said. “He reminds me a lot of Joey Ice (Capabal kennel’s All-America captain and Rural Rube winner in 2014). . . . Boom! Out of the box every time.

“In stakes races, if you break and go to the front, your chances (of winning) are a lot better than going around last.’’

That’s what LK’s Crush N It did. Bred and owned by Derby Lane kennel operators John and Jill Lashmet of Eaton, Colo., LK’s Crush N It broke first from box 6 and proceeded to increase his margin over the seven rivals at all three race calls, leading by three, six and seven lengths, respectively.

The clocking of 30.63 seconds by LK’s Crush N It was the only one under 31 seconds on the evening performance among the 96 dogs that competed on the 550-yard course.

“The track was very, very, very slow,’’ Deacon said.

Runner-up BD Wells of Everett Racing kennel provided assistance for LK’s Crush N It by staying in front of 3-2 favorite and third-place finisher Shoot The Breeze of Floyd kennel throughout the race.

“All the early speed came right down on the rail (at the start) and they just pinched (Shoot The Breeze, box 2),’’ Deacon said. “The 5 dog (BD Wells) kept (Shoot The Breeze) from getting outside. If he gets around second close to (LK’s Crush N It), I don’t know if he’d catch him, but he might have.

“It was a tough race. It’s like most of Crush N It’s races. . . . He breaks on top and you have to go get him.’’

LK’s Crush N It was coming off a third-place finish in Wednesday’s final qualifier following three consecutive victories. It was his only loss from 10 Sprint Classic starts over the past two years, but he led all finalists in qualifying points. “He missed his break a little bit (in the final qualifier),’’ Deacon said.

Hometown Boy of Floyd & Porter kennel was the first greyhound in 2007 to win the Sprint Classic in unbeaten fashion.

LK’s Crush N It was one of three Lashmet kennel sprinters in the finale. LK’s Pick Me Up finished fifth and LK’s Santorini was sixth.

Other finalists included Lester Raines’ Super C Casino (fourth), ABC Racing’s Ryeit (seventh) and Lester Raines’ O Ya Hot Rod (eighth).

“I love everybody,’’ Deacon said as LK’s Crush N It’s fans began to leave the paddock area. “It all about (LK’s Crush N It), it’s not me. I just come to work and turn him out.’’

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