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Monday, December 28, 2020

Hello,

It is hard to believe that greyhound racing has ended at Derby Lane after 95 years.

I was fortunate to be asked to write a pari-mutuel column for the former St. Petersburg Times, beginning in 2004. Although my background was in thoroughbred racing – including a one-year stint as the publicity director at Charles Town Races in West Virginia – I welcomed the opportunity to learn and write about dog racing. My first column for the newspaper involving Derby Lane dogs came on Oct. 30, 2004, featuring a Floyd & Porter greyhound named MN’s Island Anne, who has just missed starting her career by going up the graded ladder undefeated until suffering a Grade A defeat. Trained by the late Cal Holland Jr., those first four wins turned out to be only half of the eight total victories that MN’s Island Anne would register during her lifetime from 49 races.

Perhaps, it was fitting that I would begin writing on the Derby Lane (and Tampa Greyhound Track) dogs in that manner. My goal primarily was to spread the wealth of publicity wherever possible. In the past 17 years, I covered All-Americans, Rural Rube champions, Flashy Sir winners, stakes titlists and meet win champions. But when the opportunities arose, I got as much enjoyment to write about dogs and kennels that were not in the spotlight as much as others.

I was fortunate to see the final race today at Derby Lane, more than 13 years after seeing the final race at Tampa Greyhound Track on Aug. 18, 2007.

I want to thank EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU – kennel operators, trainers, handlers, greyhound owners and track personnel – for treating me respectfully in a way that I’ll never forget. Dealing with the media can be challenging, but I was brought up in the newspaper business with an old-school beliefs, and I always tried to maintain that throughout my coverage while showing respect to the person whom I was speaking with. I quickly became aware of how much care and effort you put into the greyhounds, which required your attention seven days a week on a yearly basis.

My best moments, without a doubt, were covering you on stakes championship performances. Many dressed nicely, and the smiles and congratulations were contagious.

But as I look back, the little things probably stand out to me just as much. I remember driving to Virginia from Florida one Christmas week when a kennel operator called to wish me Merry Christmas. Then one Saturday evening while dining at a Tampa restaurant, I received a call from another kennel operator who had won a rare kennel championship and wanted to thank me for writing about it. Of course, there were other calls to my residence from kennel personnel thanking me for writing on their athletes, emails that reflected the same thing, and of course, all of the camaraderie at the track.

Except for reflecting on my first article, I prefer not to singularly mention any particular kennel-related personnel for fearing of overlooking anyone. But for all the articles I wrote, none would have been possible without your cooperation and trust that I would reflect your thoughts, and bring fair and unbiased coverage to your sport.

There are different stages in life that we go through, and for nearly two decades, you became part of my life. Some of the individuals who I met 17 years ago are no longer with us, and I have not forgotten their contributions as well.

As we all go into the next chapter of our respective lives, I want to thank you again for your cooperation and friendship that we developed through the years.

I feel blessed to have added this chapter in my life, and it is one that I’ll always appreciate and never forget.

My prayers are with all of you, and wishing that you find as much happiness as I have in this now-concluded chapter of my life.

Again, thank you for letting me be part of your respective lives.

Sincerely,

Don Jensen

Tampa Bay Times

Don Jensen

I have been a sports writer in the newspaper industry for 40 years: working in Florida, Maryland and Virginia. I moved to Florida in 1984 after serving as the publicity director of Charles Town Race Track, a thoroughbred facility in West Virginia. I reside in Tampa, Fla., and cover the Tampa Bay area parimutuel scene – both greyhounds and thoroughbreds – and write about high school sports for the Tampa Bay Times.