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Monday, January 10, 2022

The 2021 greyhound racing season at Wheeling Island produced record handles following the closure of all the Florida racetracks at the end of 2020.

Wheeling Island handled $237 million on greyhound racing in 2021 compared to a handle of $75 million in 2019 (last full season numbers available) – a 212 percent increase. In 2020, the track was closed for three months due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

With a 20-race card in 2021, weekend handles surpassing a million dollars a program was commonplace as were $5 million handles a week.

The exciting and fun-filled 2021 season had numerous highlights on the track, including the $100,000 Mountaineer Classic, two West Virginia bred stake events, a record-tying performance and win streaks which generated interest. In addition, several youngsters with promising futures opened their careers and the track experienced an influx of racers from other operations – notably the Florida tracks and Iowa late in the year.

Top greyhound honors went to Xtrem Hess Racing Kennel’s AD Black Falcon, who posted 20 victories. Next in line with 19 wins each were Jacobs Racing Kennel’s Abbi’s Gusta Win, Lester Raines Kennel’s JS Slush Fund and Charter Kennel’s Oshkosh Heart.

The Lester Raines Kennel, trained by Joel Roden, captured the 2021 kennel championship – making it back-to-back crowns. It was Raines’ third title in the last four years.

In the $100,000 Mountaineer Classic in late October, Lester Raines Kennel’s Teaser’s Tickle took charge early and never looked back in winning the track’s featured stakes event by 2 ½ lengths in 29.58. Abbi’s Eagle (Jacobs Racing Kennel) took runner up honors while Penrose Boss (Blanchard Kennel) rounded out the trifecta ticket.

Completing the final order of finish were RS’s Dark Night (Lester Raines Kennel), fourth; Ding Dong Ditch (Imark Kennel), fifth; Abbi’s Frontman (Jacobs Racing Kennel), sixth; CTW Black Forest (Steve Sarras Kennel), seventh; and Frappe (Blanchard Kennel), eighth.

Teaser’s Tickle made track history in winning the Mountaineer Classic.

Since the track opened in 1976, no other greyhound had ever captured a major stakes championship in just 14 career races. The old mark was held by Large Lee, who won the 2008 Firecracker Sprint in his 15th career trip.

It was a remarkable run to the stakes crown for Teaser’s Tickle as the September 2019 greyhound out of Bella Infrared-Beautiful Tease entered the qualifying rounds without a single Grade AA race under his belt. After a seventh in the first round, Teaser’s Tickle romped to three straight wins by a combined 23 lengths to earn a spot in the final.

In the $35,000 West Virginia Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association Juvenile in September, Lester Raines Kennel’s RS’s Dark Night rocketed by the leaders on the backstretch before pulling away to a 5 ½-length victory in 29.81. JA’s Croft (Code Red Kennel) took runner up honors while Mac’s New York (A Ray Kennel) rounded out the trifecta ticket.

Completing the final finish were RS’s Blue Heaven (Lester Raines Kennel), fourth; Mac’s Zhivago (A Ray Kennel), fifth; RS’s Prime Time (Lester Raines Kennel), sixth; Coach Wonder (Patriot/Taplin Kennel), seventh; and Mac’s Evita (A Ray Kennel), eighth.

In the $65,000 WVGOBA Keystone Championship in November, Lester Raines Kennel’s RS’s Prime Time dominated the field in the final – finishing 5 lengths ahead of runner up CET Dirty Gurly (Steve Sarras Kennel) while JA’s Moon Man (Code Red Kennel) rounded out the trifecta ticket.

Completing the Keystone final finish were Mac’s Choo (A Ray), fourth; Mac’s Zhivago (A Ray), fifth; GLS Fast Food (Jacobs Racing), sixth; Macs Chapman (A Ray), seventh; and RS’s Blue Heaven (Lester Raines), eighth.

The longest winning streak during the 2021 racing season was five in a row by six greyhounds – Abbi’s Gusta Win (Jacobs Racing Kennel), Frappe (Blanchard Kennel), O Ya Trisha (Lester Raines Kennel), Oshkosh Heart (Charter Kennel), Imark Daria (Imark Kennel) and RS Big D (Lester Raines Kennel).

Two greyhounds posted four straight wins twice in 2021 – O Ya Trisha (Lester Raines Kennel) and CTW Black Forest (Steve Sarras Kennel). Other racers with four victories in a row were AD Black Falcon (Xtrem Hess Racing Kennel), BO’s Owen (Blanchard Kennel), Easi Lil Charlie (Blanchard Kennel), FGF Ron Weasley (Charter Kennel), JS Wanna Bee (Lester Raines Kennel), JS Slush Fund (Lester Raines Kennel), JS In The Money (Rangel Kennel), KB’s Copy Kat (Charter Kennel), LK’s Sheridan (Steve Sarras Kennel), Pat C Paul (Rangel Kennel), Super Ollie (Brad Boeckenstedt Kennel) and Teaser’s Tickle (Lester Raines Kennel).

The track’s 330-yard record time of 16.74, held since December 2015 by Lester Raines Kennel’s Atascocita Santo, was tied by Xtrem Hess Racing Kennel’s UBX Crackereater in November. UBX Crackereater, a January 2019 greyhound out of SH Avatar-Beautiful Tease, is owned by Cheyenne Criswell and Jason Hess.

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.