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Friday, October 25, 2019

 

Eight of the top sprinters at Wheeling Island will go to post Saturday afternoon in the championship final of the $100,000 Mountaineer Classic.

           

Last year’s stakes champion L’s Griz is back to defend his crown against a formidable field of sprinters. The final is Race 15 on the Saturday matinee card.

           

L’s Griz (Blanchard Kennel) tops all qualifiers for the final after accumulating a leading 50 points on the strength of a pair of victories and two seconds in the four qualifying round races.

           

Completing the championship final field are Axtrem Bomb (Xtrem Hess Racing Kennel), 47 points; TNT Coal Trickle (Steve Sarras Kennel), 41 points; Barts Sea Sail (Charter Kennel), 39 points; L’s Luv It (Blanchard Kennel), 38 points; WW’s Chewbacca (Wayne Ward Kennel) and BGR Bonecrusher (Brad Boeckenstedt Kennel), 37 points each; and AMF Bystander (A Ray Kennel), 35 points.

           

Post positions for the final, from the rail out, follow: 1—Axtrem Bomb, 2—BGR Bonecrusher, 3—L’s Griz, 4—WW’s Chewbacca, 5—AMF Bystander, 6—L’s Luv It, 7—Barts Sea Sail, 8—TNT Coal Trickle.

           

In addition to L’s Griz, kennel-mate L’s Luv It was a finalist in last year’s Mountaineer Classic – finishing third.

           

The winning greyhound in the championship final will earn $42,000. The complete purse breakdown is second, $18,000; third, $13,000; fourth, $10,000; fifth and sixth, $5,500 each; and seventh and eighth, $3,000 each.

           

Following are capsule looks at the finalists:

           

1—AXTREM BOMB (Xtrem Hessing Racing Kennel, trainer Jill Spicer) – two wins, a second and a third in the qualifiers; Derby Lane invader blossomed into a solid Grade AA sprinter in early October; recent success fueled by his ability to get position in the top three early in his races.

           

2—BGR Bonecrusher (Brad Boeckenstedt Kennel, trainer Chris Brill) – had a win, two seconds and a sixth in the qualifiers; off his game somewhat in August/September, before returning to form in the last three qualifying trips to earn a spot in the final; has plenty in tank coming home.

           

3—L’s GRIZ (Blanchard Kennel, trainer James E. Blanchard) – two wins and two seconds in the qualifying round races; just needs position early in the race and room on the rail; multi-dimensional – can break to the lead and one of the better closers in the race; defending Mountaineer Classic champion.

           

4—WW’S CHEWBACCA (Wayne Ward Kennel, trainer Ronnie Otto) – a win, a second, a third and a fourth in the preliminary round races; does like rushing from an outside post position, but had success from inside holes in the early rounds; broke in at Wheeling before a start stint at Southland.

           

5—AMF BYSTANDER (A Ray Kennel, trainer Joe Palmer) – two wins, a fourth and an eighth in the qualifying races; if he has a lane, has the box speed and rush to the first turn to grab the early lead; has captured five out of his last eight top grade starts.

           

6—L’S LUV IT (Blanchard Kennel, trainer James E. Blanchard) – two wins, a third and a seventh in the early round starts; caught fire at the right time after two straight sixth place finishes going into the qualifying rounds; likes to be close to the lead early.

           

7—BARTS SEA SAIL (Charter Kennel, trainer Jay Falcone) – had two wins, a third and a sixth in the preliminary round races; opened career at Derby Lane before coming to Wheeling this summer; the early speedster will need to be on or near the lead early in the final.

           

8—TNT COAL TRICKLE (Steve Sarras Kennel, trainer Barb Long) – two wins, a second and a seventh in the early rounds; his game is getting out of the box quickly and possesses a power rush to the first turn; can break sharp from outside holes but prefers an inside post position.

           

RACE ANALYSIS: It may be tough to duplicate the excitement produced in last year’s Mountaineer Classic final when L’s Griz came from fourth in the stretch to edge AMF Loose End by a nose at the wire in one of the most electrifying finishes in Wheeling Island stakes history.

           

In this year’s final, there are several greyhounds capable of going to the front with their box speed and rush to the first turn but the post position draw did not help their chances. AMF Bystander, Barts Sea Sail and TNT Coal Trickle all like to go out early, but their posts are not favorable to their racing styles.

           

With that said, it looks like Axtrem Bomb with the coveted red blanket could be on or near the lead around the first turn. L’s Griz may be sitting in a good spot too with a slower-breaking BGR Bonecrusher to his inside and a wide-running WW’s Chewbacca just to his outside.

           

In 2018, my pick to capture the stakes event was L’s Griz and I see no reason to change my selection this year.

           

L’s Griz will be looking for the rail, and my guess is he’ll drive right to the front or duck in behind Axtrem Bomb as they round the first turn. On the lead, Griz will be tough to catch unless BGR Bonecrusher gets loose early. If Axtrem Bomb is on the front, L’s Griz – although a year older – still will have enough to catch the frontrunner.

            Let’s go with $1 trifecta, 3-1-all, 3-all-1 and 3 over 2, 4, 6. For superfecta players, maybe a 13/13/246/246.

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.