ST. PETERSBURG - Bahama Mama kennel owner Francesca Field gasped when she saw her prized greyhound, Cayman Went, tumble awkwardly while running in a March 20 qualifying round for tonight's $100,000 Distance Classic.
"Not again," Field said.
The fall came almost a year after Cayman Went's last injury. On March 22, 2003, the fawn brindle male was stepped on and pulled up lame in qualifying rounds of the same stake race. He had two large screws inserted into his hock and was given a 65 percent chance to resume racing.
Cayman Went missed the rest of the season at Derby Lane. He made his comeback at Tampa Greyhound in August and has become one of the nation's most celebrated greyhounds.
"I remember being at home and watching the races on television when Cayman went down last year," Field said. "I was devastated then. Now here comes the same race and he falls again."
The dog did not suffer another injury. Cayman Went won his semifinal race Wednesday to qualify for tonight's final of the Distance Classic, the richest stakes race of the season. The three-eighths-mile race is the 10th on the program.
"(Cayman) has had some bad luck in this stake race," Field said. "He's healthy, and now he needs to show what he's made of."
For six months Cayman Went has ranked among the elite. Running at Tampa Greyhound and Derby Lane, the greyhound won 16 straight races to break the record of Field's other prized greyhound, Talentedmrripley.
Cayman also has won six stake races, set the track record at Derby Lane in a five-sixteenths-mile race (30.02 seconds) and posted the season's best time in a three-eighths-mile race (37.19).
Running out of the No.7 box, Cayman Went likely will be the betting favorite. But there is no guarantee he will continue to dominate. Cayman Went's fall allowed Flying Newport, who was undefeated in qualifying rounds, to vault to the top in the point standings. Flying Newport, which belongs to ZEZ Kennel, drew the No.3 post.
"This is a strong field," Field said. "Cayman will have to run awfully well to win."
Cayman Went has done well when the stakes are high. During the Sprint Classic last month, he held off WW Apple Jax to win by 4 lengths. Cayman Went also rallied to win his last race after taking a spill.
"I was real proud of Cayman the way he came back to win in the semifinals," Field said. "That showed a lot of heart. Think about running 40 mph and then falling. That's what the dog did. He's just resilient."