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Saturday, August 27, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Eight dogs will enter the starting box tonight for the $8,000 T.L. Weaver Memorial Challenge at Derby Lane. Instead, the spotlight may be on a Kat. Kentucky Kat, a last-minute entry for Cal Holland kennel in the track’s first stakes race of the season, goes for her first crown in the 550-yard finale.

The T.L. Weaver Memorial (Race 10, 9:47 p.m.), named in honor of Derby Lane’s founder, will cap a magical evening. Retired star Husker Magic, the only greyhound to reach 100 victories at Derby Lane, will be honored with a farewell appearance after Race 8 at 9:13 p.m. The 2015 All-America captain and Rural Rube award winner as the sport’s top sprinter will be paraded on the track for a final time. She registered 105 victories from 2013-16, and is tied for 33rd place on the National Greyhound Association’s all-time win list. Husker Magic won three stakes, including the previous T.L. Weaver Memorial on June 4. She ran her final race on June 21 for kennel owners Jim and Kayruth Abernathy. The $60,000 Husker Magic Fall Sprint on Sept. 10-24 was recently renamed after her.

This will be the fourth stakes final this year for Kentucky Kat, who had been sidelined twice totaling more than four months with a toe issue. She advanced Wednesday with a 3-length victory in 30.63 seconds. Her best stakes finish thus far has been a second to Jack’s Timeless in the $8,000 Inaugural on Jan. 2.

Kennel manager and trainer Justin Holland said he did not plan to race Kentucky Kat in the T.L. Weaver Memorial, which was recently moved to the first spot on Derby Lane’s revised stakes schedule. The 27-month-old female from a litter by Pat C Clement and Kentucky Jude had been off since July 4 before returning to win a pair of schooling races by 12 combined lengths. “When (the T.L. Weaver Memorial) popped up, I wasn’t aiming or preparing (for her to enter),’’ Holland said. “It’s been good timing so far.’’

Kentucky Kat, who is owned by Don Godby, did not have an official race following the layoff at the time that Holland entered her. That came several days later, when she was bumped by a rival and finished last by 20 lengths. “She actually got a decent break, but (another dog) took her right inside and she didn’t really have a chance to run,’’ Holland said.

This will be the second consecutive T.L. Weaver Memorial final for Kentucky Kat, who finished eighth to Husker Magic. The rest of the field: Flying Dynomite (McAllister Racing kennel), Hallo French Gig (Pauline O’Donnell), Lk’s Neon Lite (Lashmet), two-time stakes winner Mac’s Gossie (Alabama Racing), Sh Norio (D’Arcy), Tr’s Flapjack (Floyd) and Yolo Carter (Burk Greyhounds). First place pays $3,200.