Not a bad way to get new wheels

Published March 8, 2007

Last year, Scott Kaplan won a Hummer H3 at the Derby Lane Million race series in St. Petersburg.

This year, he took home a Ford Mustang convertible.

Not bad for a guy who doesn't bet on greyhound races.

"My father and I go once in a while, but we don't bet the dogs, we play poker," said Kaplan, a Largo High School teacher.

On Saturday, Kaplan won the grand prize for the second year in a row at Derby Lane's race series. The series, which is only in its second year, offers greyhound racing's highest purse.

Anyone who showed up Saturday to watch or bet on races got one chance at winning the grand prize via an elaborate raffle.

Kaplan's two-year success comes at amazing odds: 1 in 142-million, roughly the same as correctly picking all six numbers in the Florida Lotto, said Alex Trindade, an assistant statistics professor at the University of Florida.

"It's about as difficult. They're comparable," Trindade said.

Kaplan, 42, was at a loss to explain his good fortune. "It's just got to be luck," he said.

The drawing for the Mustang was the final giveaway in the three-week-long race series. In the final race, eight dogs compete for the top prize of $500,000 after a series of elimination rounds.

To enter the contest, participants deposited their entry forms into one of eight boxes that corresponded with the eight dogs running the final 550-yard sprint. One entry form was given to each person attending Saturday's races, said Derby Lane director of marketing Fran Williamson.

Kaplan put his form in box number 2, for Flying Stanley, after reading about the dog in that day's St. Petersburg Times.

After Flying Stanley won the race, Kaplan's name was randomly picked from the box by Frank Walker of Walker Ford, which supplied the car.

"It's just a phenomenal thing. To win once was great enough. I thought (on Saturday), 'I'm not going to win again. Nobody wins two times in a row.' And then she called my name again, and I thought, 'I can't believe it.' "

On Tuesday, Kaplan paid about $2,200 in sales tax before he picked up his new car, which is valued at $26,000. Kaplan isn't sure what he'll be required to pay the IRS for the prize, but said his accountant has estimated he'll pay about $8,000 on his 2006 income tax for the H3 he won last year from Dew Cadillac and Hummer.

By comparison, his entire night of playing poker Saturday netted him $23 in winnings.

Kaplan, who teaches geography and American government, said his students were excited about his big win.

"Several are saying that if I'd like to give them the Mustang, they'd take it," he said.

He's planning to return next year. "We were actually kidding about that. I said 'What kind of car are you giving away next year? I'll come back for that one.' "

By the numbers

8 Entry form boxes for Derby Lane Million grand prize

4,471 People who entered this year's contest

1,490 People who put their entry form into box number 2, for Flying Stanley

1 in 11,920 Probability of winning the grand prize, based on this year's number of entrants

1 in 142-million Probability of winning the grand prize twice, based on this year's number of entrants

Source: Alex Trindade, University of Florida