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By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- Craigie Whistler proved Saturday night that post position really does matter.
The 2-year-old male brindle broke strongly from his favorite No. 2 box to take a commanding lead straight to the winner's circle in the Sprint Classic at Derby Lane.
None of the other greyhounds had that advantage. The favorite, the impressive juvenile Courageous Nicky, started from No. 1, far from his preferred center position.
Dominator, who won the Speed Classic and the Tampa Derby two years in a row, likes to run to the inside but started in the outside 8 box.
In fact, most of the eight-dog field started far from preferred racing positions. As a result, the first third of the race quickly became confused, giving Craigie Whistler more than enough running room to come within one-hundredth of a second of the fastest time at 5/16th of a mile this season. Craigie Whistler's time was 30.47 seconds; the fastest time is held by Courageous Nicky, set in the semifinals.
Only BD's Phillip was able to get inside and keep the pressure on Craigie Whistler. He finished 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner, however, and just two one-hundredths ahead of third-place finisher N Big Ed.
"We had a good spot. It was a crowded field and the strong dogs got into trouble," trainer Norman Secia said.
"If Dominator and Courageous Nicky had been reversed, there is no knowing how this race would have turned out."
Secia, who purchased Craigie Whistler for New York-based owner Amy Birnbaum last year for $27,500, is considering entering the dog in the Hollywood Greyhound World Classic. In the past year, Craigie Whistler has started 28 times and never finished lower than third.
"He was really whistling tonight," assistant trainer Lawson Christy said as he stroked the panting winner.
The 26th running of Derby Lane's $85,000 premier sprint race drew a record season crowd of 4,323 and more than $103,638 in on- and off-track betting. Craigie Whistler paid $11.80, $5.80 and $4.80. BD's Phillip paid $12 and $10.80, and N Big Ed paid $5.80.