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Year in Review: Highlights from Wheeling’s 2023 racing season

Stan Pawloski

Jan 2, 2024

In August of 1976, greyhounds chased “Spunky” around the track at Wheeling Island for the very first time as greyhound racing was launched in the Friendly City.

Last year marked 47 years of Wheeling greyhound racing and fans can expect another thrilling, fun-filled racing season and more excitement in 2024.


Although no open stake races were held in 2023, there were plenty of highlights on the track. Four greyhounds generated excitement by winning six straight races, one sprinter climbed the ladder to Grade AA undefeated, two West Virginia-bred stake events were contested, several greyhounds battled throughout the year for top win honors and several youngsters broke their Maiden and look like future stars.


Top greyhound honors went to a pair of sprinters – Blanchard Kennel’s Artex Pumbaa and Charter Kennel’s JSP Rayzendacash, as both posted 22 victories. Next in line were 2022 track win champ Florentine (Steve Sarras Kennel) and Tenacity (Blanchard Kennel) with 21 wins each.


The Blanchard Kennel, trained by Chris Maynard, captured the 2023 kennel championship with 640 wins after taking runner up honors to the Lester Raines Kennel the last three years. The Blanchard Kennel won their first Wheeling kennel crown in 2019.


The 640 wins by the Blanchard Kennel in 2023 is the most at Wheeling since the ZEZ Kennel posted 645 wins in 1999 and 659 victories in 2000.


In the history of Wheeling racing, only 29 greyhounds had moved up the ladder straight to Grade AA after winning their Maiden debut. Now there’s 30 as Hell Bent accomplished the feat last year.


The youngster won his first Maiden race in early June before capturing Grades D, C, B and A in successive starts. An August 2021 greyhound out of Konomi-Liz Cambage, Hell Bent races out of the Xtrem Hess Racing Kennel, trained by Jill Spicer and owned by David Strong.


The Wheeling record for most victories in a row to start a career is 12 by Kiowa Sweet Trey in 2001. The sprint star won Maiden, Grades D, C, B, A and seven in Grade AA.


In the $35,000 West Virginia Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association Juvenile Championship in late September, CG’s Honesty (Code Red Kennel) rocketed out to the early lead and never looked back in romping to a 7-length victory. Littermate CG’s Sun Storm (Code Red Kennel) took runner up honors while CET Mist (Steve Sarras Kennel) rounded out the trifecta ticket.


Completing the final finish were Wild Blue Bee (Xtrem Hess Racing), fourth; Wild Chomp Dude (Xtrem Hess Racing), fifth; Arroyo Duchess (Code Red), sixth; CG’s Nail Biter (Code Red), seventh; and Arroyo Deon (Code Red), eighth.


In the $65,000 WVGOBA Keystone (3/8th) Championship in October, Wild Blue Bee bided his time behind the frontrunners early in the race before storming home on the rail to edge out CET Dirty Skinny (Steve Sarras Kennel) by half a length at the wire. Pacesetter CET Marlin (Imark Kennel) settled for third.


Completing the final order of finish were CET Dirty Toodls (Steve Sarras Kennel), fourth; TS Woody (Steve Sarras Kennel), fifth; Wild Chomp Dude (Xtrem Hess Racing Kennel), sixth; CET Zink (Imark Kennel), seventh; and JAS Strait Aces (Patriot/Taplin Kennel), eighth.


The longest winning streak last year was six in a row by four greyhounds – Artex Pumbaa, JSP Hush Money, FGF Duke and CET Dirty Dan (streak started in December 2022 and extended into January 2023). Four other greyhounds won five straight races – Smile N Mean It, Hell Bent, AMF Gotta Go and Tenacity.


Several greyhounds captured four straight victories – Artex Pumbaa, Ark RB Heyward, Artex Kusapin, Arkans Pride, Florentine, FF Leroy Brown, Arma Guiness, JSP Rayzendacash, GLS Ondemand, FF Evel Knievel, FF Evolution and FF Vespa.


Wheeling will host two West Virginia-bred stakes races again in 2024, the Juvenile and the Panhandle Championship.



Xtrem Hess Racing Kennel’s Wild Blue Bee captured the $65,000 West Virginia Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association Keystone Championship in October at Wheeling Island. With the champion in the winner’s circle are, from left, Amy McLaughlin, Emily McLaughlin, Trinity LaCuesta, Rhea LaCuesta, racing secretary Chris Yahn, racing manager Jack Davis, Wild Blue Bee owner Randy Crabtree, Cindy Kovalski, lead out Mecca Davis and trainer Jill Spicer. (Photo by Stan Pawloski)

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