#1 – OAKS MADDY
– Folks who follow Palm Beach will remember some very impressive wins by this greyhound at the beginning of her career (winning by 8 and 9 lengths in some cases) but this Arkansas Bred greyhound came home to Southland just in time for the Festival of Stakes last Fall. She made it to the finals of the Arkansas Bred Sprint Division and ran into some bad luck in that championship race. Now she is back in another stakes finals looking for redemption. As one of only two females to make this championship race, she definitely has the skillset to surprise and potentially pull off a big upset of the big boys. She has an incredibly fast rush to the first turn, which can totally negate a lackluster start. If she were to break sharp on championship night, watch out! While most bettors would agree she has the deck stacked a bit against her in this field (and looked a bit off form her last start in the semi-finals), just the sure fact that she can get the lead early in this race bears watching. Any trouble occurs in the turns and a two or three length lead becomes five or six and that just might be enough for her to pull off a win for the ages. This post isn’t half bad either.
#2 – CHASMO’S DUTCH – He was already a good greyhound when he arrived on scene, but he cemented his place amongst the “greyts” currently racing at Southland when he won the Male Division in the Festival of Stakes Sprint Championship last fall. It took a few starts to knock the rust of his paws once he returned from competing in the Daytona 550 National Championship race in January this year, but it is evident the rust is completely gone. He was the only greyhound to record three wins during the four qualifying rounds including that one length victory in the semi-finals over fellow finalist “Chumbrago”. He is definitely able to win from any post position and will likely be one of the favorites, if not the favorite once betting closes for the championship race.
#3 – FIESTA PAULINE – She spend a good chunk of the 2015 racing season south of the border at Caliente before making the long haul to Southland last Fall. It only took a handful of starts before the she reached and won top “AA” grade at the West Memphis oval despite missing almost six months of racing. She tends to run hot and cold, winning in streaks, and missing the board in streaks. She just missed being able to claim three wins in qualifying (got run down in the stretch in round 3 to finish second) but her last start is obviously the big question mark. Her last place finish the semi-finals has some trouble to it, but she was already in the pack of the pack when it happened. She tends to cheat to the inside, so if she finds room there it could get interesting. One thing is certain though, she can’t afford to spot any of the greyhounds in this field a lead of any significance. Four of her 17 starts at Southland showed her having the lead and losing it down the stretch, and those were against greyhounds that don’t have the pedigree of what she will be facing in the championship.
#4 – SE TALI SUNDANCE – Although this Charter Kennel entry recorded just two wins in the four qualifying races, he ended up tied for the lead in points during qualifying with Chasmo’s Dutch at 47. Like Chasmo’s Dutch, one of his wins was during the semi-finals in box to wire fashion going away over fellow finalist Boc’s Hank Jr. Some may forget that SE Tali Sundance also made the finals of the Festival of Stakes Male Sprint Division last Fall, but encountered trouble and missed the pay sheet. What folks shouldn’t forget is that this greyhound is the current win leader at Southland with 18 victories in just about the same number of starts as his rival Chasmo’s Dutch. Although his mid-track running style may suggest he would be great in the outside boxes, this white and red male has proven any box is fine with him. His inconsistent break may be the only fly in the ointment for him to claim his first stakes victory of his career.
#5 – BOC’S HANK JR – Another “Iowa boy”, this greyhound is by far the most accomplished of the three hailing from the Midwest. Being older also could have something to do with it. His impressive 2015 campaign at Bluffs Run which was crowned by winning the Iowa Breeders Classic was rewarded with a spot in the Daytona 550 National Championship race this past January. It started off great in Florida, where he won his schooling and first official start by comfortable margins before sustaining a small injury before the big event forcing his withdrawl. A couple of months later, he showed up at Southland Park and it didn’t start off that well. He fell back to grade “B” just before the Kentucky Derby but came out of his funk in impressive style. He quickly won three in a row by an average margin of nearly 5 lengths and was hitting the board in top grade leading up to qualifying. You could argue he has been getting better each start in qualifying too, even though it has produced just one victory. With just 15 starts under his belt, a historical perspective is tough to give. The five wins he does have at Southland hasn’t been against any of the “big boys” racing here and he gave up two nice leads in the first two rounds of qualifying. Will the May version of Boc’s Hank Jr emerge on championship night? It better, or chances are he could be on the outside looking in.
#6 – CHUMBRAGO – You might first say “who?” when you mention this Robert Thorne Kennel finalist, but folks who watched the start of his career at Bluffs Run in Iowa know exactly who “he” is. He went from maiden to winning top grade in just eight starts at the former Council Bluffs venue before transferring in to Southland at the beginning of this year. It took him awhile to adjust to the overall better competition and track surface as he didn’t win top grade here until nearly May. But since then, he has only missed the pay sheet once in top grade here and even racked up two wins during qualifying to finish third in qualifying points with 45, just two off the leaders. That isn’t bad for a greyhound who people may not notice by name alone. The closer to the rail this dog is, the better shot he will have to finally make bettors and fans alike remember his name going forward. Remember, it took Chasmo’s Dutch all he had in the stretch to defeat him in the semi-finals, further proof that he belongs in this field.
#7 – CLASSY WOLVERINE – This is the second entry in the championship race for the Lester Raines Kennel and trainer Ken Lesperance (Chasmo’s Dutch being the other). Much like Chumbrago, the “Wolverine” got his start at Iowa Greyhound Park before coming to Southland in December of last year. Unlike Chumbrago, it took him a little while longer to assert himself in the higher grades as far as winning consistently. That same pattern followed him to Southland Park as he was only able to chalk up a couple wins over a three to four month period of time. Once Spring “sprung”, so did the Wolverine it seemed. Although he is just one of two greyhounds in this field to claim a single win during qualifying, his win was by dominating fashion in round two by 7 ½ lengths over fellow finalist Oaks Maddy. In “non-stakes” competition, he has also beaten fellow finalists Chumbrago, SE Tali Sundance and beat AMF Sleekstrangr who comes with a ton of “street cred”. What does that all add up to? It adds up to a greyhound that could be the one at the winner’s circle if his break is sharp on championship night. He has the speed to beat the best, but tends to reach the first turn in precarious spots which gets him in the midst of trouble often. Watch the mid to wide part of the track late in the race and if the Wolverine is close, it could launch this dog nationally as one to watch going forward.
#8 – IRVIN OF RUCKUS – This Darren Kennel entry should sound familiar to the bettors of Southland Park. He has logged a lot of miles and races on the West Memphis oval when his career started in the summer of 2014. Although he has competed in top grade for a majority of his career so far and has made a few stakes finals, he has yet to taste victory in those championship races. The Southland Derby may be one of his last shots to do so. At already approaching 3 ½ years old, the wins are not coming at nearly the pace they were before (four wins in 28 starts), but there are still races he looks like his old self. Round 2 of qualifying showed one of these races when he blasted fellow finalist SE Tali Sundance by five lengths going away. As the overall competition of the races went up in rounds three and four however, his finishes fell back to a fifth and fourth place finish respectively. This greyhound has a tendency to want to be “with the pack” which makes him a play in the trifecta and superfecta for sure, but everything seems to have to happen perfectly for him to get his first elusive crown. But, stranger things have happened in stakes finals before. Just the mere fact he got in the finals is proof of that.
NOTE– New neon colored racing blankets will make their debut during the championship on Friday evening at Southland Park. While the majority of the blanket colors will be maintained, the biggest changes are to the #7 blanket (which will change to neon orange) and the #8 blanket (which will change to neon pink) will be the most noticeable.”