Change favors Derby Million top dog

Published February 11, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - Change For A One needed a change.

The turns at Wheeling (W.Va.) Downs were too tight. His performances were inconsistent. Wins were scarce.

"It was apparent he wasn't going to be a top-notch dog there," Ryan Farms Kennel trainer John Simon said. "So we sent him to Kansas, freshened him up and cleared out his head."

Change For A One is one changed greyhound.

The 35-month-old red brindle male by Wigwam Wag and Come Home Happy has been one of the best dogs at Derby Lane this season. He is tied for second in victories (13 from 19 starts), has the track's third best time at 550 yards (29.90 seconds) and owns a stakes win (All-Star Kennel Preview).

Change For A One also is one of the leading contenders in the Derby Lane Million, which begins tonight at Derby Lane. The three-week tournament is greyhound racing's richest in history with the winner earning $500,000. Change For A One is one of six dogs representing Ryan Farms.

The rebirth of Change For A One's career has been astonishing. Before arriving at Derby Lane in October, he had won only seven of 38 starts at Wheeling Downs, and needed seven races to break his maiden. His first victory at Grade A came in career start No.45.

"He doesn't have a lot of box speed, so he tries to rush up and get around the other dogs," Simon said. "He needs a lane to run in."

Change For A One perfected that style, winning nine consecutive races at 550 yards before losing in his last start on Jan.25.

"At Wheeling, he wouldn't run the sharp turns too well (at 550)," Simon said. "So out of necessity, I put him on the backside (660). Derby Lane is a different track; he's taken to it well."

Change For A One isn't the only Ryan Farms threat. Mayor Daley , another Wheeling Downs invader, is undefeated in six Derby Lane starts. Both greyhounds are owned by kennel owner Don Ryan .

"If I had to rank them, Change For A One would be 1 and Mayor Daley 1A," Simon said. "Both are good dogs."

Eight qualifying races for the Derby Lane Million will be held tonight. They run consecutively, beginning with Race 5. Greyhounds accumulate points based on order of finish. The first elimination will follow Wednesday's second round, when 16 dogs are ousted.

MORE DOG RACING: Futures wagering on the Derby Lane Million concludes Tuesday. Wagering is available on 20 individual greyhounds and four fields, each consisting of 11 dogs. ... The first 2,000 fans tonight will receive a Derby Lane Million Dollar T-shirt. ... With the racing world focused on Derby Lane, track president and chairman of the board Vey Weaver wishes his father were still alive to be part of the event. Arthur Weaver , a forerunner in numerous areas within the industry, passed away 14 months ago. "I think he's looking down from wherever he is up there and smiling," Vey Weaver said. "I'm just sorry he's not going to be here to see it, because I think it would be one of the proudest moments in his career."

HORSE RACING: Sir Shackleton , which finished eighth to Saint Liam in the Breeders' Cup Classic, is among 14 horses entered in today's $50,000 Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Jeremy Rose will ride the Nick Zito trainee for owner Tracy Farmer . ... Dale Bennett was selected as the track's trainer of the month. ... The first area qualifying round for the 2007 Daily Racing Form /National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Contest takes place today in Oldsmar. ... The track will host Family Fiesta Day on Sunday, featuring Latin entertainment and personalities.