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Monday, April 9, 2018

Hula Hoopn Haley roared down the middle of the track to overtake three rivals in the stretch Saturday and won the $75,000 Distance Classic at Derby Lane.

It was the first stakes title for the 40-month-old female from a litter by Raiders Blaze and BKR Raven. She paid $7.80 to win as the second wagering choice for owner Ann Occhino of Denver, Colo. Winning time on the 660-yard course was 37.92 seconds.

Hula Hoopn Haley’s win from box 1 topped a big night for Capabal kennel owner Henry Parker and trainer Belinda Parker, whose Swamp Yankee nosed out pace-setter HKF Sponge Bob of Farmer Racing kennel for second place for owner Matthew Schumitz of Plymouth, Mass.

It was the first championship for Capabal in the 59-year-old Distance Classic, Derby Lane’s richest stakes race.

Both kennelmates were rewarded with their largest career paychecks: Hula Hoopn Haley earned $30,500, and Swamp Yankee got $15,250.

Hula Hoopn Haley and Swamp Yankee entered the stretch in tandem – the former racing on the outside and the latter hugging the rail - behind HKF Sponge Bob and eventual fourth-place finisher PJ Kindadontcare of Rangel kennel. Hula Hoopn Haley had clear sailing and used a scintillating burst in the final 25 yards to pass all three challengers. She won by two lengths.

“It was a matter of running (the two front-runners) down,’’ Henry Parker said. “I just hoped they had enough to catch them.’’

Hula Hoopn Haley won for the 14th time from 55 starts at Derby Lane since arriving in May 2017 from Melbourne Greyhound Park. It was Capabal’s third consecutive stakes victory after its John Valazquez captured the $64,000 Sprint Classic March 3 and $18,000 1925 Historical Inaugural Jan. 6.

The remaining order of finish: Flying Hypatia (Lester Raines kennel), Tempest (D’Arcy), Rich N Famous (Farmer Racing), and 9-5 favorite and undefeated qualifier LK’s True Retro (Lashmet).

Don Jensen

I have been a sports writer in the newspaper industry for 40 years: working in Florida, Maryland and Virginia. I moved to Florida in 1984 after serving as the publicity director of Charles Town Race Track, a thoroughbred facility in West Virginia. I reside in Tampa, Fla., and cover the Tampa Bay area parimutuel scene – both greyhounds and thoroughbreds – and write about high school sports for the Tampa Bay Times.