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Monday, July 8, 2019

Going through the Wheeling Island daily racing program, fans can easily find the track record holders in each distance and when the marks were established.

Three of the track records – 3/16th (330 yards), 5/16th (548 yards) and 7/16th (761 yards) – were set in 2015 while the 3/8th standard (678 yards) is the oldest, rewritten in 2011.

The current track record holders are Atascocita Santo, 3/16th, 16.74; AMF Sleekstrangr, 5/16th (28.79), Switzler Mustard, 3/8th, 37.05 and Napa Know How, 7/16th, 41.60.

While those marks are obvious, local greyhound historian Robin Reed has come up with a listing of some, probably unknown to many, track-related records as well as some tidbits and fun facts from the 40 plus years of racing at Wheeling Downs/Island. The track opened for greyhound racing in August 1976.

Do you know?

- On June 1, 1978 (Thursday evening), the Race 10 quiniela returned a record $499 payout, a mark that remained in the program as a mutuel record through 1988. Records were not shown in the program beginning in 1989, but the mark was eclipsed on April 12, 1991, with a $1,060.60 quiniela payout. The 1978 record was a Grade AA race won by PK’s Jiggs with Friendly Lanky second. The race favorite, E.Z. Ike, finished third.

- One of the largest single payouts in track history, if not the largest, was a $92,093.40 twin trifecta jackpot that was paid out on a single ticket on Saturday, Feb. 23, 1985. The twin trifecta was not capped in those days and remained live until it was hit.

- The 7/16th Buckeye Course (marathon) track record was broken via a dead heat on Aug. 5, 1986, between Freezer Plan and Madds Tootsie in a Grade T race. The two clocked 43.01. The record only stood for 24 days as GH’s Dr. Pepper broke the 7/16th mark on Aug. 29 with a 42.98 effort. This would be the only time in track history that a track record was broken by a dead heat.

- Greyhound Hall of Famer Dutch Bahama came to Wheeling to compete in the $145,000 West Virginia Classic in 1985 amid much fanfare. He won his first round qualifying race by 6 ½ lengths in a time of 38.08 (a mere tenth of a second off the then track record of 37.98), but his infamous second qualifying round race did not go as well. Dutch Bahama, a 90 cent on the dollar favorite, checked the escape turn and was disqualified from further rounds of the stakes event. He was just one of five Hall of Fame greyhounds to set paw on the island oval. The others were Rooster Cogburn in 1977, K’s Broadway in 1987, Kiowa Sweet Trey in 2001-2002 and EA’s Itzaboy in 2002-2003.

- Wheeling Downs had three racing greyhound giveaways in 1978. They included Downs Delight, Oglebay Baby and Wheelin Dealin. Downs Delight was in Grade A at the end of 1978, while Oglebay Baby was in Grade B and Wheelin Dealin in Grade D as of early 1979.

- On Monday, June 14, 1982, West Virginia Gov. John D. Rockefeller IV was on hand for the Governor’s Cup Trophy Race won by 17-1 long shot River Roy. He upset race favorite Friend Delilah by catching her in the stretch to win by a head at the wire. Gov. Rockefeller presented the Waterford Crystal Trophy to trainer Ray Brownlee’s wife, Victoria, for the British Mountaineer Kennel.

- The first ever West Virginia Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association stakes race at Wheeling occurred on May 29, 1993. Warrior Express won the $50,000 WVGOBA Sprint Championship for the ZEZ Kennel and trainer Ed Zeroski. The champion was owned by Michele White. Prince Damon was second (MJP Kennel, trainer Patrick McMillon, owner Donald Lewis) and EF Walkin Fern was third (HUT Kennels, trainer Robin Green, owner Freda Tomblin).

- On Wednesday, March 2, 2011, Chronicle Trent (C And C Kennel) romped to a 24-length box-to-wire victory from the one box in a time of 42.13 over the 7/16th Buckeye Course. The win margin is believed to be the largest on record in Wheeling’s history.

- July 2013 marked the return of the Wheeling Course (330 yards) at Wheeling Island. The course was first used starting in late 1989 until early 1990.

- On Wednesday, Sept. 14, 1977, the first ever 9/16th super marathon race was held at the island raceway. The greyhounds broke from the 5/16th box and raced two laps around the track to complete the 988-yard event. Corsair won the inaugural race for the Mike Castellani Kennel in a time of 58.69. The last time the course was used at Wheeling was on Oct. 23, 1987, when Steph’s Ace won in a time of 58.32.

- Trifecta wagering debuted at Wheeling at the start of the 1978 racing year while superfecta betting was introduced on Nov. 5, 1984. The 10-cent superfecta began in 2011.

I was introduced to greyhound racing by a friend in the late 1970s at Wheeling Downs and fell in love with the sport and the athletes immediately. Throughout the years, I have developed a deep passion for racing. In the mid 1990s, I started writing a weekly greyhound column and shortly thereafter became a writer for The Greyhound Review.

I have enjoyed watching and writing about these wonderful competitors, including All-Americans DD's Nelson, Kiowa Sweet Trey, Gene's Champion, WW Apple Jax, Greys Royalcrown, Nimby TP Jan, Hi Noon Hero, Gable Sour Cream, KB's Ruckus and Cry Case.